Report: AG’s offices assessed more than $8M in restitution and penalties against employers last fiscal year

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks at Smith College in September 2017. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Managing Editor
Published: 9/6/2021 6:37:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Employers were assessed more than $8.1 million in restitution and penalties in the past fiscal year in cases involving wage theft and other forms of worker exploitation in Massachusetts, according to an annual report released Monday by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

The sixth annual Labor Day Report details the activities of the AG’s Fair Labor Division during the period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 during which time the division ordered employers to pay $5 million in restitution and $3.1 million in penalties to employees. About 10,622 employees were impacted as a result of the AG’s enforcement actions, according to the report.

“On Labor Day, we celebrate and honor all the workers across Massachusetts who have continued to work hard and persevere during a year of great uncertainty,” Healey said in a statement. “My office remains committed to upholding workers’ rights and enforcing our state laws to ensure every employer is providing its employees with the workplace rights and benefits to which they are entitled.”

Among the notable cases cited in the hospitality section of the report is enforcement action taken against Iron Horse Ventures, the owner and operator of entertainment companies in Northampton and Holyoke, for failure to pay wages in a timely manner and denying employees use of earned sick time. In June, the company was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution and penalties in a case involving the rights of about 30 employees. At the time, the company’s manager and president, Eric Suher, denied the allegations and said he planned to appeal the citations.

According to the AG’s office, the pandemic and the economic crisis remains a prominent issue for many working families across Massachusetts and continued to be a part of the AG’s focus through fiscal year 2021. The Fair Labor Division continued its work to ensure workers had access to wages and paid sick leave and an online multilingual FAQ page helped to provide up-to-date information regarding employee rights and employer responsibilities during the ongoing pandemic.

The Fair Labor Division said it prioritized wage theft in the construction industry in fiscal year 2021. In total, almost $2 million in penalties and restitution was assessed against 115 employers in the construction industry, according to the report. In one case, the AG’s office cited a Lowell asbestos company for more than $564,000, which included restitution for 32 employees, for failing to pay wages and overtime, failing to maintain an earned sick time policy, and payroll records violations.

The division undertook efforts to help make the construction industry more inclusive and racially diverse, including collaborating with external groups on a training initiative about the state’s laws that require a diverse workforce on public construction projects. More than 500 public purchasing and industry representatives have since been trained on statutory workforce participation goal obligations, according to the report.

The Fair Labor Division’s efforts to enforce Massachusetts’ child labor laws remained a focus. In one notable case, the AG’s office cited a management company that operated 10 Dunkin’ locations in the Boston area for $120,000 in penalties after an investigation revealed more than 1,000 violations of the state’s child labor laws.

These laws limit the number of hours that minors under 18 can work when school is in session, and limit the times of day in which 14- and 15-year-olds can work, among other provisions.

In the cleaning and janitorial services industry, the division was able to secure nearly $300,000 in restitution and penalties and assist over 950 employees, according to the report. In one case, Number One Solution LLC, a in Southborough cleaning company, was required to pay $154,000 in restitution and penalties to resolve allegations of wage theft, failure to maintain an earned sick leave policy and for not producing accurate records.

On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, AG Healey launched an educational video and training materials, including a digital toolkit, to assist in detecting and reporting the signs of labor trafficking. The materials were also made available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. The office also continued to work with city and community partners in order to implement trainings on the materials and distribute them to communities across the state.

The AG’s Fair Labor Division is currently made up of 50 attorneys, investigators, intake and support staff. Forty percent of the division’s employees speak at least one other language, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Vietnamese, according to the AG’s office. The division is responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the payment of wages, including minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and earned sick leave. It also protects employees from exploitation and wage theft through strong partnerships and community education.

Workers who believe that their rights have been violated in their workplace can call the office’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465. More information about the state’s wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at www.mass.gov/ago/fairlabor.




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