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Increase Penalties for Wage Law Violations

Wage Theft by Employers Surging in Wake of Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law, Even as Judge Blocks Implementation of Key Provisions

The Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, a worker center in Phoenix, has seen a “huge spike” in wage theft -- violations of minimum wage laws -- since the passage of SB 1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law.  "Employers are even more brazen in their mistreatment of workers," said Executive Director Trina Zelle in an interview with In These Times.  "Increasingly, 'Go ahead, try and make me pay you' is the response workers hear when they confront their employers over unpaid wages."

Workplace Standards for Domestic Workers: Breakthrough NY Legislation Approved

On June 1, the New York Senate put the state in position to be first in the nation to enact a Domestic Workers' Rights law (S2311) by a vote of 33-28. The New York Assembly led the way in June 2009 when it passed its own version of the bill (A1470). This groundbreaking legislation will extend core labor rights, from fair labor standards to paid sick days, to creating a framework for collective bargaining, to domestic workers. This will include those employed to work in a private home to perform housekeeping and/or to care for children, the infirm, or the elderly.

Wage Law Enforcement State Trend: Illinois Becomes Most Recent State to Crack Down on Wage Theft

A crime wave has been sweeping Illinois, with surveys of low-wage workers in the Chicago area showing an average of 146,300 cases of wage theft each week -- resulting in about $7.3 million each week in unpaid wages, or $380 million stolen from workers each year.  In order to crack down on this criminal wage theft, the Illinois General Assembly on May 3 nearly unanimously (56-0 in the Senate and 112-1 in the House) passed SB 3568, which will strengthen the state’s ability to enforce violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Washington State Latest to Sign Bill Against Wage Theft

Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill to combat wage theft this week, adding Washington to a growing number of states and counties, including Miami-Dade County, cracking down on employers who underpay workers (many of them undocumented immigrants) and violate minimum wage and overtime rules. 

Promoting Wage Law Enforcement Policies in 2010

Progressive States Network will be working with state leaders around the country to promote policies to improve enforcement of minimum wage, overtime and related wage laws in the states.  This Dispatch will highlight the chronic wage violations in the workplace, model wage law enforcement language for states to promote, messaging to support those campaigns, and specific ways such an approach has the added benefit of undercutting anti-immigrant attacks in the states.

Protecting Workers Rights by Stopping Misclassification as Independent Contractors in Maryland

Earlier this month, the Maryland legislature joined a number of states in cracking down on worker misclassification by enacting the Maryland Workplace Fraud Act (S 909 / H 819 ) which has the support of Gov. O'Malley who is expected to sign the bill shortly.  The main focus of the bill was stopping the misclassification of workers as "independent contractors" used by employers to deny them a minimum wage, overtime and key workplace benefits.

New Mexico Enacts Wage Law Enforcement, Joins National Trend

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson recently signed a wage enforcement bill (H 489) to allow underpaid workers to collect their back wages plus twice that amount in damages. The bill was backed by community groups and labor unions as well as the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.  New Mexico now becomes the eighth state that allows workers to collect treble damages against employers violating the minimum wage — a key deterrent to employers to ensure compliance with the minimum wage.