State Attorney General Maura Healey’s office assessed more than $12.3 million in restitution and penalties against employers on behalf of working people in Massachusetts in fiscal year 2020, according to an annual report by her office.
“This Labor Day, we celebrate the countless workers across Massachusetts who have risked their health and safety to get us through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Healey said in a statement. “As we work together to emerge from this crisis and reopen our economy, my Fair Labor Division will continue to rigorously enforce the state’s wage and hour laws to ensure that every worker in every industry is treated fairly under the law.”
From July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, the AG’s Fair Labor Division required employers to pay nearly $6.7 million in restitution and $5.7 million in penalties, and more than 12,939 workers were helped as a result of the the office’s actions, according to Healey’s fifth annual Labor Day report on wage theft and other forms of worker exploitation.
The division performed 173 visits to worksites across 92 cities and towns before the COVID-19 pandemic halted site visits in March 2020, answered thousands of calls from members of the public and processed more than 6,000 wage and hour complaints.
The pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis facing working families across Massachusetts dominated the Fair Labor Division’s work in the latter half of fiscal year 2020. The division recovered more than $400,000 in final wages for more than 600 employees who lost their jobs as a result of the recession, and established an internal Health and Safety Task Force to respond to workers concerned about workplace safety. From March 11 through June 30, the division responded to more than 15,000 constituents seeking help.
The hospitality industry received the largest percentage of citations from the AG’s Office, with 252 enforcement actions and more than $4.1 million in restitution and penalties. Most citations in the industry involved restaurants, including many assessed for violating the state’s child labor laws.
The Fair Labor Division broadened its efforts to investigate child labor complaints and protect young workers, assessing more than $3.4 million in penalties against 37 employers, including chains like Dunkin’, Qdoba, and Wendy’s. In the largest child labor case handled by the AG’s office to date, Chipotle was cited for an estimated 13,000 violations and has paid more than $1.8 million in penalties and assessments.
The Fair Labor Division also assessed nearly $2.5 million in restitution and penalties against construction employers on behalf of more than 500 employees. In one case, the AG’s office cited a Chicopee construction company and its president nearly $1 million in restitution and penalties for violating the state’s prevailing wage law for work performed on public projects. The division also formed a multilingual Construction Site Field Team that conducted visits to construction sites, engaged workers and contractors, and shared information about employers’ duties under state wage laws. In all, the division contacted 97 company representatives and interviewed 168 workers about wage and hour law compliance.
Healey also joined a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s decision to drastically narrow joint employer liability and allow businesses to more easily shield themselves from liability for wage theft.
People who believe that their rights have been violated in their workplace may call her 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.