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Massachusetts budget amendment targets wage theft

A proposed amendment to the Massachusetts House budget would allocate $500,000 to establish a special unit tasked with ensuring that construction companies in the state abide by wage and hours laws. The unit would be staffed with investigators who would look into alleged or suspected wage violations in the construction industry. The amendment is supported by several building trade labor unions. Observers expect it to be approved.

The Democrat behind the amendment said in a statement that the unit was necessary to protect taxpayers who lose out when construction companies falsify payroll records. Before being voted into office, he investigated labor cases for Attorney General Martha Coakley. A report released by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office in February reveals that 66 construction companies paid fines in excess of $1.23 million and made restitution of $1.47 million in 2018 to settle 165 cases involving 1,030 employees.

If established, the unit would consist of two inspectors and a supervisor for each of the state's three regions. The inspectors would hold employers in the construction sector accountable when they do not pay their workers overtime in accordance with wage and hours laws, keep incomplete or falsified records of the amount of hours their employees work or fail to pay the hourly wage required for companies involved in public projects.

Workers in Massachusetts may pursue civil remedies when their employers compel them to work before their shifts begin, after their shifts have ended or through their meal breaks. Workers should also be fairly compensated for any compulsory work-related travel. Attorneys with experience in this area may help employees hold employers accountable for wage violations.

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