BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey today issued her seventh annual Labor Day Report on the office’s efforts to combat wage theft and other forms of worker exploitation. The report shows that in fiscal year 2022 the office assessed more than $11.8 million in restitution and penalties against employers on behalf of working people in Massachusetts.
“This Labor Day, we honor the resiliency of Massachusetts workers whose perseverance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has kept our communities and our economy going,” said AG Healey. “One of my top priorities is ensuring that workers from every industry are paid the wages they are entitled to and that they have access to the hard-fought workplace rights that our laws provide. We will continue to advocate for the rights of workers at the state and national level.”
The Labor Day Report details the activities of the AG’s Fair Labor Division in fiscal year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. During this time, the Fair Labor Division ordered employers to pay $7.5 million in restitution to employees and $4.2 million in penalties to the General Fund. More than 19,300 workers benefited from the AG’s enforcement actions.
In fiscal year 2022, the Fair Labor Division continued its focus on combatting wage theft in the construction industry – where workers are often vulnerable to exploitation on the job. The Division assessed more than $2.9 million in penalties and restitution and issued 217 citations against employers in the industry. In one case, the AG’s office cited a Wareham company and its owners for more than $1.2 million, including restitution for 22 employees, for prevailing wage violations and failing to submit certified payroll records.
The Division also undertook efforts to raise awareness about workforce participation goals for both women and workers of color on state and state-assisted construction projects. The AG’s Office, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Building Authority and the Office of the Inspector General, trained more than 500 public purchasing and industry representatives about the state’s laws that require a diverse workforce on public construction projects.
In fiscal year 2022, the Fair Labor Division advocated on behalf of workers in the hospitality industry. As the state continues to rebuild from the pandemic, hospitality workers, particularly tipped workers in the restaurant industry, remain especially vulnerable due to constant exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Enforcement actions in this industry impacted more than 1,500 workers, resulting in over $951,000 in penalties and restitution. In one case, a Subway restaurant agreed to pay $104,000 in restitution and penalties for failing to pay minimum wage, failing to pay employees on time, and for additional violations of the state’s Earned Sick Time, paystub, record keeping, and child labor laws. And in line with its national legal advocacy efforts on matters affecting workers and workplace conditions, the Fair Labor Division celebrated the U.S. Department of Labor’s new Tip Regulation, which limits the amount of non-tipped work, such as preparing food and cleaning, that employers may assign to tipped employees while taking a tip credit. The new rule resolves AG Healey’s multistate lawsuit challenging a prior Trump administration rule that would have made it harder for service workers to make a living.
The Fair Labor Division also sought to ensure that employers across all industries and professions are providing workers with at least one 30-minute meal break per six hours of work as required by state law. In one case, the Division cited retailer Family Dollar $1.5 million in penalties across 100 locations in Massachusetts for more than 3,900 meal break violations affecting 620 employees. In another case, Dynamic Waste Systems, Inc. was required to pay more than $257,000 in restitution and penalties after it was discovered that the company regularly deducted a half-hour from drivers’ wages for meal breaks, without confirming that employees actually took their breaks.
In fiscal year 2022, the Fair Labor Division also resumed the Attorney General’s Wage Theft Clinic. Originally launched in 2016, the Wage Theft Clinic connects workers with free legal consultation from private bar attorneys. The monthly clinic was paused during the height of the pandemic, but was restarted in April 2022 with a renewed focus and commitment to serving the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable workers. The Fair Labor Division works with several community and legal service partners throughout Massachusetts to run the clinic.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division consists of attorneys, investigators, intake and support staff. More than 40 percent of the Division’s employees speak at least one other language, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese. The Division enforces 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.