Increase Penalties for Wage Law Violations


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.

Immigration Raids vs. Enforcing Labor Rights - Iowa seeks alternatives to broken families and communities

The federal government is fixated on raiding workplaces in search of immigrant workers, but they have practically abandoned punishing irresponsible employers violating wage, workplace safety and child labor laws.  Demonstrating a remarkable commitment to punishing the victims, they've left it up to states to take action against the more pervasive problem of sweatshop labor conditions.

New PSN Report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed

Today, the Progressive States Network is releasing a new report: The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by States Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants.   The Executive Summary is available online, as well as the full report in PDF and HTML format.

State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009

Download a copy of the reports in PDF format here.  View the HTML version of the report here.

Labor Day: How States Can Protect Workers Rights

In honor of Labor Day, we thought we would highlight some of our past Dispatches which outline steps states can take to protect workers' rights and raise wage standards. With new Census data showing that the median income for working-age households is still $1,300 below 2001 when the last recession hit bottom, the need for states to act to improve working conditions is greater than ever.