The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office created a new unit to investigate wage theft, according to a statement released Monday.
Gov. Tim Walz signed a new law that invested $3.1 million to the Department of Labor and Industry to enforce wage and hour laws. The new law is designed to protect workers from exploitative employers who do not pay them for their work. The legislation adds criminal penalties for employers.
“If you earn a wage, you should be paid a wage,” Walz said. “If a worker has their wages stolen, it is no different than any other kind of theft. For too long, bad employers have taken wages from hardworking Minnesotans, with little to no recourse for the workers.
In turn, the attorney general formed a Wage Theft Unit to enforce the new law and litigate the cases. A press release from Attorney General Keith Ellison said wage theft includes “having hours shaved off your paycheck; being forced to work off the clock; not getting paid for overtime; being paid at a lower rate than promised, sometimes even below minimum wage; being paid in cash or other forms like gift cards, with no Social Security, unemployment or worker’s comp withheld; being misclassified as an independent contractor and more.”
“The promise of America is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll get ahead. But you can’t get ahead if your boss is stealing your hard-earned wages,” said Ellison. “Wage theft is straight-up theft, but for too long, it’s been hard to hold bad employers accountable. That’s hurt not only the workers who’ve had their wages stolen, but the many good businesses who play by the rules, and the folks who work for them, too. Now, Minnesota has the strongest law against wage theft in the country.
Ellison will co-host a public roundtable discussion on wage theft and two listening sessions with local legislators, as well as meet privately with a variety of community leaders and workers, during three days of travel in south central and southwest Minnesota, which started Thursday, July 18, and will continue through Saturday, July 20. He will hold two events open to the public in Mankato on Friday, July 19, and one in Worthington on Saturday, July 20. The events are free of charge.
The listening session in Worthington will focus on the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs.
The events that are open to press and the public are listed below. In addition to these events, Attorney General Ellison will be meeting privately on Thursday with leaders of the Upper Sioux Community in Granite Falls and leaders of the Lower Sioux Community in Morton; on Friday with regional county attorneys in Mankato; and on Saturday with union workers around concerns about worker safety and wage theft in Worthington.