Wage theft has been illegal in all places for a long time as, of course, it should be. However, if enough Massachusetts legislators have their way, more employers might be held responsible—even if they aren’t guilty of improperly paying their own employees but contracted with others who were.
Sadly, unscrupulous business operators have cheated workers by not paying them for all hours worked, paying them straight time for overtime, paying them improperly as independent contractors, or not paying them at all. What Senate Bill 999 and House Bill 1033 hope to achieve is to make all “lead companies” responsible.
So what is a “lead company?”
In the article Proposed Bill Targets “Wage Theft” in Massachusetts, Jordan Scott of Strang, Scott, Giroux and Young says, “Lead companies are defined as any business entity that obtains or is provided workers directly from a labor contractor or indirectly from a subcontractor. In other words, should this bill become law, first tier subcontractors and general contractors would share liability for wage issues, include wage theft and independent contractor misclassification.”
Proponents of the bill cite fairness issues. While employee victims of wage theft would be protected, so also would honest contractors who bid on municipal projects and insist their subcontractors pay employees as the law requires. Opponents point out that Massachusetts employers can expect an additional and undue administrative burden if the initiative becomes law.
As for likelihood of passage, the word on Beacon Hill is that it will pass, and soon. More than 100 legislators have endorsed the bill, which has received strong bipartisan support. Given that the current legislative session ends this year, news could be forthcoming soon. For more perspective, read More tools needed to combat wage theft and Massachusetts Workers Rally In Support of Wage Theft Bill. And stay tuned to this space for updates.