Since the development of workplace rights in the early 20th century, most attorneys general’s offices have been involved in workplace issues in their role as counsel to their state labor agency, representing the agency when it is sued or when court action is necessary to carry out a particular enforcement effort. While this is a vital role to play, there is potential for attorneys general to play a greater role in protecting their citizens in the workplace, working both side-by-side with their state labor agencies and independently taking actions. Some examples of action include wage and hour or other labor standards enforcement, as well as the enforcement of workers compensation and unemployment insurance requirements. The Labor Project provides resources that may be of use to AG offices currently exploring these issues.
Employer Payroll Fraud Resources
The Labor Project has launched a new initiative to identify, obtain and make available resources to encourage and support state regulators as they enhance identification, investigation, and conduct criminal and civil prosecution of employers who evade workers’ comp, unemployment insurance, and payroll taxes by knowingly misclassifying workers as “independent contractors,” paying in cash off the books, or engaging in a variety of other illegal activities that support payroll fraud, such as racketeering, money laundering and criminal conspiracy. Please check back regularly, as this online resource will see continuous addition as resources are identified and obtained.
On November 20, the Labor Project of the National State Attorneys General Program hosted a special public event, The Changing Nature of the Employment Relationship
, featuring George Jepsen
, Attorney General of Connecticut, and Andrew L. Stern
, Ronald O. Perelman Senior Fellow at the Richman Paul Center for Business, Law and Public Policy. Mr. Stern and Attorney General Jepsen discussed the breakdown of the traditional employer-employee relationship
and the role that state regulators, employers and workers can play in resisting or influencing these changes to ensure that: workers receive the wages and benefits to which they are entitled by law, businesses compete on a level playing field, and states can establish and sustain healthy workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance programs and collect tax revenue properly arising out of the employment relationship. This topic lies at the heart of the social and economic fabric of the country, affecting the state of trust, sustainability and competitiveness at every level.
Human Trafficking Initiative
The National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School is dedicated to supporting state attorneys general as they tackle the persistent and complex problem of human trafficking. The ability of attorneys general to work with federal, state and local prosecutors and policy makers gives them a unique role in prosecuting human traffickers, assisting trafficking victims and developing state based policies. As the premier legal research, education-and-policy center examining the implications of the jurisprudence of state attorneys general, the Program will work closely with attorneys general, their staff, and advocates who seek to address the trafficking issue.
New Labor Project Initiative Focuses on Employer Payroll Fraud (July 17, 2012)
In 2011, the Labor Project published a study of state enforcement of wage and hour laws—the first of its breadth and depth to be conducted on a national scale—and hosted a meeting of state and federal regulators, academics and advocates to discuss improving enforcement of labor laws at both the state and federal levels. The results of these initiatives compelled the conclusion that increased prosecution of employer payroll fraud would be an effective platform for protecting workers, improving state fiscal health and leveling the playing field for employers who play by the rules. The Labor Project's efforts are now focused on this issue, including a new initiative to gather and make available resources to encourage and support state regulators as they enhance identification, investigation, and conduct criminal and civil prosecution of employers who evade workers’ comp, unemployment insurance, and payroll taxes by knowingly misclassifying workers as “independent contractors,” paying in cash off the books, or engaging in a variety of other illegal activities that support payroll fraud, such as racketeering, money laundering and criminal conspiracy. Look for news and resources on this topic in upcoming newsletters and on the labor project webpage, www.stateag.org/labor.
Labor Project Staff Present to State Workforce Agency Representatives (June 13, 2012)
On June 13, Labor Project staff, led by National State Attorney General Program (AGP) Director James Tierney, a former Attorney General of Maine, presented to representatives from 15 states, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the United States Department of Labor, on a teleconference hosted by the IRS. Director Tierney detailed the past work of the Labor Project and its current effort to develop an on-line prosecution manual that includes best practices, varying legal theories and concrete cases in the area of employer payroll fraud. Tierney additionally communicated the Labor Project’s desire to join and support cooperation between all stakeholders in the area of labor law enforcement. Project staff then took questions from participants and joined a roundtable discussion of current issues in the field.
The IRS and State Workforce Agencies maintain a memorandum of understanding to share information to identify and address questionable practices through which employers seek to avoid federal and/or state employment taxes. For more information, see the IRS webpage on this collaboration and the Questionable Employment Tax Practices Initiative Progress Report from April 2011.
United States Department of Labor, State Labor Regulators and Other Stakeholders Meet at Columbia Law School to Discuss Best Practices and Information Sharing to Prevent Unlawful Labor Practices
New York, September 19, 2011 – On August 17-18, the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School convened an informal meeting of state and federal regulators, academics and advocates to discuss improving law enforcement at both the state and federal levels regarding payroll fraud and misclassification.
Inconsistent Enforcement of State Wage and Hour Laws Could Lead to “Regulatory Race to the Bottom” New Study Finds (April 5, 2011)
The National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School has issued a report on state wage and hour law enforcement, analyzing survey responses from 37 states and the District of Columbia. The study, based on data available in the fall of 2010, is the first of its breadth and depth to be conducted on a national scale, and includes an objective analysis of wage and hour enforcement on the state level, measuring the methods and extent of enforcement, and the ability of states to track and share data on wage and hour enforcement. It is based on data available in the fall of 2010.
The full report can be found here:
National State Attorneys General Program Director Opposes Bill to Eliminate Protection of Maine Labor Law for Poultry Employees (April 15, 2011)
AG Program Director and former Attorney General of Maine James Tierney, has submitted testimony to the Maine Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, opposing a bill that would eliminate the requirement that minimum wage and overtime be paid to workers at farms that have over 300,000 egg-laying hens. As state representative, Tierney had sponsored the amendment in 1975 in response to poor working conditions at the a Decoster Egg Farms processing plant, and DeCoster is currently the only Maine employer to which it applies. In opposing repeal of the amendment, Tierney's testimony noted that the 1975 amendment passed with unanimous support from the state's Labor Committee and both chambers of the Legislature and that Decoster has since been cited and fined for numerous labor, animal cruelty, civil rights and health and safety violations.
Read Director Tierney's full testimony here
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