Workers who have lost thousands of dollars to wage theft descended on the state Capitol Thursday to urge lawmakers to beef up enforcement against employers who break the law.
With only about a week left for the Legislature to hear policy bills, anti-wage theft legislation has yet to have a hearing. The measure would give the state Department of Labor and Industry more enforcement tools and an increased budget to hire four additional wage and hour investigators to do proactive outreach across the state. It would empower workers with more information and impose stiffer penalties for violators.
Wage theft threatened the life of Roger Nelson’s wife, when he and 94 other workers were abruptly fired by Lakeville Motor Express, depriving them of health care and thousands of dollars of pay.
“I have a wife that is very sick,” requiring expensive medication, Nelson said. “What they did to us was wrong.”
Nelson was joined at the Capitol by other Lakeville Motor Express employees, retail cleaners and other workers who have been robbed of pay.
An investigation by Workday Minnesota has found wage theft in Minnesota is larger and more widespread than most people realize – and the problem is growing. The Department of Labor and Industry estimates that 39,000 Minnesota workers suffer from wage theft each year, resulting in $11.9 million in wages owed, and that's only what goes reported. Wage theft occurs when:
- Employers refuse to pay their employees for work performed
- Employers violate minimum wage, prevailing wage, and overtime protections
- Employers make unlawful paycheck deductions
- Employers coerce employees to work off the clock
- Employers misclassify employees as an independent contractors to avoid paying workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance
The workers met with both DFL and Republican lawmakers, receiving a receptive ear from some.
"I know wage theft is a problem in Minnesota,” said Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar. “I support more funding for DOLI to enforce laws."