A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Are Worker Misclassification and Wage Theft Laws the Solution?

With the advent of the Arizona Immigration law, SB 1070, the filing of Amicus Briefs by 27 states, and the challenge to the Arizona law, many of us are not watching the Wage Theft and Employee Misclassification movement underway in a large number of states.

This movement involves religious organizations like Interfaith Worker Justice and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos.  It has spread through Florida, New York, Chicago, Iowa, New Jersey, New Mexico and New Hampshire.  Most of the laws focus on the misclassification of workers as temporary or independent contractors where the result on the workers can be devastating and substantial.  The laws impose stiff penalties on employers in a broad range of industries who have a history of wage theft through misclassification.

“If we ever hope to bring immigrant workers out of the shadows in which they’ve been laboring,” says Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, “we need to forcefully oppose anti-immigrant legislation and stand up for both comprehensive immigration reform and vigorous enforcement of the nation’s labor laws.”  Bobo was quoted in a recent article in the Progressive States Network article that says that the passage of the Arizona Immigration law has created an environment where even more employers are engaging in wage theft.

Bobo’s organization is leading the way for the wage theft movement.  It is becoming clearer that the passage of wage theft and worker misclassification laws will change the environment for workers only if the Labor Department enforces the Labor laws.

Once again it appears that the states and cities are having to step in to correct conditions of long standing wage theft and worker misclassification where the federal agencies have not enforced existing laws to their fullest.  Several Congress members are working on a Federal misclassification law that will create on a national basis what the cities and states are doing right now.

If the national law is enacted, will it solve the problem?


Comments

Anonymous's picture

I have filed a US DOL wage complaint as I discovered that my employer intentionally misclassified me as an EXEMPT employee in order to avoid paying me any overtime wages. IN FACT, US DOL has determined that I was a NON-EXEMPT employee under FLSA Standards that were based on the duties test (these standards go not by my title but rather the work that I did - oh and how ironic that my employer gave me both an "internal" as well as a nicer "external" title to attempt to confuse things even further).

Here is the rub I have after having reviewed so many wage theft websites that have referred to the misclassification of employees with the ONLY FOCUS on sub-contractor status when the employee should be an actual "employee." There is so much more to the label misclassification of employees by employers in my humble opinion!

WHAT ABOUT TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT SITUATIONS WHERE THE EMPLOYER HAS INTENTIONALLY MISCLASSIFIED AN EMPLOYEE AS "EXEMPT" TO AVOID PAYING OVERTIME WAGES WHEN THE EMPLOYEE'S ACTUAL DUTIES (NOT BASED ON A TITLE) PROVE THE EMPLOYEE IS NON-EXEMPT WHICH REQUIRES THE EMPLOYER BY LAW TO PAY THE EMPLOYEE OVERTIME ???!!!

I truly would like to see more wage theft websites add more about this most KEY information I shared above in their definitions so that employees can understand a more COMPLETE picture of what MISCLASSIFICATION of an employee is so they can review the FLSA exemptions duty tests for themselves!

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Anonymous's picture

Long time issue. You are right to bring it up in this discussion. There are many dimensions to the wage theft issue. We see it in the office and front office situations. We also see it in the real estate and even the stock brokerages arenas. We have been told about it in the telecom and high tech areas.
I started seeing it in the 80s when I was a real estate broker and the argument was whether we were employees or independent contractors. That one goes on today. The rules are pretty clear. The enforcement is not so clear. It just takes a "whistle blower" to tell the DOJ about the infractions.

The current push by Kim Bobo and her team in the Wage Theft space revolves around the immigration issues and so they seem to be focused on them in that vein.
The new bills in most states publish an anonymous phone number so that you can call in to ask where your situation fits.
The penalties are much stiffer and the Fed is hiring more folks for enforcement.
Thanks for the response. We will keep our eyes open for other instances.

Let us know how your suit turns out.
Jim Kollaer

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