Attorney General Steps Up Wage-and-Hour Enforcement

September 23, 2020

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office assessed more than $12.3 million in restitution orders and penalties against employers over wage-and-hour violations in the 2020 fiscal year, according to the AG’s fifth annual Labor Day Report.

The $12.3 million breaks down into nearly $6.7 million in restitution (i.e. unpaid wages owed to employees) and $5.7 million in penalties. While some of the more recent enforcement efforts have focused on businesses that didn’t pay wages due to COVID-19 related issues, there are many “run-of-the-mill” enforcement actions as well.

The hospitality industry was a primary focus of the AG’s enforcement efforts. The agency initiated more than 250 enforcement actions and more than $4.1 million in restitution and penalties. Most citations in this industry involved restaurants, (for example, fast food/chain restaurants), including many that were assessed for violating the state’s child labor laws.

The increase in child labor investigations reflects a new focus by the AG’s Fair Labor Division (FLD) on potential child-labor violations. More than $3.4 million in penalties were assessed against 37 employers for these types of violations.

Another major focus of the FLD was wage-and-hour violations in the construction industry. Nearly $2.5 million in restitution and penalties were issued against construction employers. The violations cited include prevailing wage, non-payment of wages and fraud related to the bidding process.

Key enforcement areas in the home health-care industry were failure to pay minimum wage, failure to pay overtime and insufficient recordkeeping of employee wages and time worked.

The annual report is a reminder about how vigilant employers need to be to ensure that they comply with all aspects of the wage-and-hour laws from timely payment of wages upon termination to proper recordkeeping to ensure all overtime is paid.