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Labor Department to crack down on wage-and-hour violations

Here is some potential good news for Detroit workers; the Labor Department has inked agreements with 12 states and the Internal Revenue Service in an attempt to catch more employers who are cheating their employees out of their wages. Michigan is not one of those 12 states yet, but the Labor Department is encouraging other states to join in.

Labor Department officials say the deals will give them more information, which it will use to be more aggressive in protecting employee rights. Specifically, the Labor Department is going after businesses that mis-classify workers as independent contractors or non-employee so they do not have to give them overtime pay or pay workers compensation, unemployment insurance and other federal taxes.

One Labor Department spokeswoman said the department is trying to make violating labor laws and policies harder for businesses. She said if the cost of being caught breaking the law is too high, it will make more sense for businesses and companies to just do what they are supposed to in the first place.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has made increased enforcement of federal wage-and-hour laws a top priority since she took office in 2009. The department has focused on industries where so-called "wage theft" is considered to be a big issue. This primarily means hospitality-related industries, including hotels and restaurants, and service jobs, like those in the janitorial, health care and day care sectors.

Once again, Michigan is not currently participating in this information-sharing program. If you think it would be a good idea for our state to do so, you might consider getting in touch with your elected representatives. Government officials have an incentive to be responsive; if they feel their constituents care about making sure employees get the compensation due to them, they might make it a bigger priority.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Labor Dept. expands enforcement of wage violations," Sept. 19, 2011

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