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Despite the media focus on a handful of states passing anti-immigrant measures, the unreported story has been the increasing crackdown by state governments on wage law violators as a response to the growing underground economy.  A few examples include:

  • The Arizona and Ohio minimum wage ballot initiatives passed by voters in 2006 included new triple damages against employers violating their state wage laws. 
  • In 2008, Massachusetts made it the law, SB 1059, that triple damages will be mandatory for violations of that state's wage law.
  • Iowa  SF 2416 (approved in the Senate) would have established triple damages for wage law violations and created significantly larger civil penalties, including severe penalties for retaliation against employees reporting violations.
  • Responsible contracting laws in a few states and cities now deny public contracts or operating licenses to wage law violators.  See Los Angeles Responsible Contractor Ordinance for one example and San Francisco's city minimum wage for provisions that authorize city agencies to revoke permits or licenses for businesses that violate the law.
  • A number of jurisdictions are increasingly applying "theft of wages" statutes to enforce criminal sanctions against wage law violators.  Many states already have "theft of wages" statutes on the books, so all that is needed is to enforce these provisions.  See NELP's Using Criminal Theft of Service Laws To Enforce Workers' Right to be Paid (NELP) for more on how to use such criminal theft statutes or add them to a state's criminal code.