Lawyers Journal

Secretary Goldstein featured as keynote at Labor & Employment open meeting

The work of the Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification, the investigation of the $418 million Marriott Copley Place renovation that led to wage and hour fines, and the possibility of legislation expanding the reach of the state's wage and hour laws were discussed by Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne F. Goldstein at an open meeting of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Labor & Employment Section on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The task force, established by Gov. Deval L. Patrick in 2008, is getting an increasing number of calls from businesses filing complaints about competitors who are not following the state's laws, Goldstein said. "Legitimate businesses are struggling to compete," she said. The task force accepts anonymous complaints, but would prefer to at least receive a call from the companies' attorney to help determine the validity of the complaint, Goldstein said.

In her overview of the Marriott wage and hour case, Goldstein revealed that the investigation and subsequent enforcement actions pointed out a few problems with the current law. The state lacks the recourses and legal reach to go after companies registered out of state even if they are violating Massachusetts laws. In addition, Goldstein said, it takes "a million hoops" to publicly name companies that are violating Department of Unemployment Assistance regulations. Lastly, current law does not allow Massachusetts to hold a general contractor liable for violations that come as a result of decisions made by sub contractors. "What do you do when the only employer on record is an individual with a cell phone in California?"

Goldstein said the task force is in its preliminary stage of discussing possible legislation changes to deal with issues that arose out of the Marriott case.

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