State and Local Enforcement Project

The role of states and localities in protecting workers’ rights has never been more important. New officials and agencies are engaging in labor standards enforcement, new laws are being passed and new enforcement strategies are being tested. The Enforcement Project, funded in part by the Public Welfare Foundation, fills a critical need in examining and strengthening innovative state and local actions and initiatives. 

The Enforcement Project works with government agencies and officials engaged in enforcing workplace laws. Among other things, the project:

  • Collaborates with state attorneys general, convening a network of offices interested in protecting the working people of their states;
  • Seeks to develop the potential role of district attorneys in enforcing workplace laws; and
  •  Provides technical assistance to state and local government labor agencies, as well as to worker organizations and advocacy groups seeking to collaborate more effectively with government.
  • Conducts research on matters affecting low-wage workers, and potential ways states and municipalities can address their needs.

State AGs Protecting Workers' Rights Roundtable 10/26/20

Enforcement Project in the News

Colorado Sun Logo

Opinion: Why Coloradans should be skeptical about gig companies’ promises

January 21, 2021

By Terri Gerstein
The Colorado Sun

In December, Uber’s CEO asked the governors of all 50 states to give the ride-hailing company’s workers priority for the coronavirus vaccine. The company sent a similar letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It’s a profoundly cynical move. Uber and friends just spent over $200 million on California’s Proposition 22, a successful ballot initiative to exempt themselves from basic employment laws (paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, workplace safety requirements), in exchange for a seriously slender benefits package. 

Uber’s advocacy for vaccine priority reads more than anything like a company seeking replacement parts for its machinery, not caring for its people.... Read more about Opinion: Why Coloradans should be skeptical about gig companies’ promises

Boston Globe Logo

Gig workers deserve employment protections

December 18, 2020

Mark Erlich
Boston Globe 

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors predates the emergence of the gig economy and has been a method of skirting the cost of standard worker protections.

In the midst of all the presidential transition drama, one of the most overlooked but consequential outcomes of the November election was the victory of Proposition 22 in California. Funded by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates to the tune of a record-breaking $200 million, the ballot measure exempted ride-hailing and delivery drivers from a 2019 law, Assembly Bill 5, which brings California’s gig economy into compliance with conventional employment laws.

Download Op-ed... Read more about Gig workers deserve employment protections

ILR Review Logo

Misclassification in Construction: The Original Gig Economy

November 26, 2020

by Mark Erlich
ILR Review

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors has been the focus of recent attention as a result of the implementation of that employment model by ride-share and other gig employers. But the practice long predates the emergence of the gig economy, particularly in the construction industry. This article traces the history of misclassification in construction and the subsequent emergence of a cash-based underground system of compensation, which have lowered standards and been among the major causes of the decline of union density in the industry. In addition, the author examines the regulatory environment at the federal level, which has largely enabled misclassification as well as attempts by state agencies to adopt more aggressive enforcement policies. Downloand Article 

  •  
  • 1 of 14
  • »

Enforcement Project - Publications

MISCLASSIFICATION IN CONSTRUCTION: THE ORIGINAL GIG ECONOMY
Mark Erlich. 11/26/2020. “MISCLASSIFICATION IN CONSTRUCTION: THE ORIGINAL GIG ECONOMY.” ILR Review. Download PaperAbstract
The misclassification of employees as independent contractors has been the focus of recent attention as a result of the implementation of that employment model by ride-share and other gig employers. But the practice long predates the emergence of the gig economy, particularly in the construction industry. This article traces the history of misclassification in construction and the subsequent emergence of a cash-based underground system of compensation, which have lowered standards and been among the major causes of the decline of union density in the industry. In addition, the author examines the regulatory environment at the federal level, which has largely enabled misclassification as well as attempts by state agencies to adopt more aggressive enforcement policies.
Terri Gerstein. 8/27/2020. Workers’ rights protection and enforcement by state attorneys general. Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute.Abstract

Key takeaways

  • State attorneys general (AGs) have been playing a key role in enforcing and protecting workers’ rights.
  • State AGs have dramatically increased their involvement in this area in recent years; this report documents these activities in detail. Here are just a few examples of the many ways state AGs are protecting workers’ rights:
    • Helping workers attain safer working conditions during the pandemic
    • Recovering stolen wages through civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions
    • Fighting misclassification of workers as independent contractors instead of employees
    • Cracking down on companies’ use of noncompete and no-poach agreements, which limit job mobility
    • Proposing and supporting legislation to safeguard workers’ rights
  • State AG offices engaged in workers’ rights issues should continue to build on the work they’re doing, and more state AGs should join the effort.
  • State legislatures should grant explicit authority to state attorneys general to enforce workplace rights laws and should ideally also fund positions for enforcement.
  • Worker organizations and advocates should seek to build relationships and work with their state AGs to safeguard workers’ rights in their states.
Protecting Workers through Publicity: Promoting Workplace Law Compliance through Strategic Communication
Terri Gerstein and Tanya Goldman. 6/30/2020. Protecting Workers through Publicity: Promoting Workplace Law Compliance through Strategic Communication. LWP and Clasp.Abstract

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program have released a new toolkit on strategic communication, a critical component of driving compliance with workplace laws. Communicating about agency enforcement, which is critical to informing the public about their rights and responsibilities, is one of the most effective ways to deter violations. These goals are more important than ever as labor enforcement agencies strive to protect workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This resource addresses why agencies should use media and other means of strategic communications and offers suggestions on how to do so. In a moment of reduced state budgets and limited resources, media coverage and strategic communications are a cost-effective way for agencies to multiply their impact and inform workers of their rights.

Download report

  •  
  • 1 of 3
  • »

Enforcement Project Events

2020 Oct 26

State AGs Protecting Workers' Rights Roundtable

1:00pm to 2:00pm

Location: 

online via Zoom

On Monday, October 26 at 1 pm EST we hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on how state attorneys general have been taking action to protect workers. We were joined by:

D.C.  Attorney General  Karl Racine Illinois  Attorney General  Kwame Raoul Minnesota Attorney General  Keith Ellison Pennsylvania Attorney General  Josh Shapiro Terri Gerstein,  Harvard LWP

D.C. Attorney General
Karl Racine

Illinois
Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

Minnesota
Attorney General
Keith Ellison

Pennsylvania
Attorney General
Josh Shapiro

Moderator:
Terri Gerstein,
Harvard LWP

In recent years, there has been a surge of activity by a number of state attorneys general in protecting workers’ rights. As detailed in a recent report issued by the Economic Policy Institute and the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, state AGs have:

  • Brought civil lawsuits and criminally prosecuted employers for wage theft;
  • Combatted no-poach and non-compete agreements, which suppress wages/job mobility;
  • Fought misclassification of workers as independent contractors instead of employees;
  • Opposed and challenged anti-worker rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor; and
  • Taken action on behalf of workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Since 2015, six AG offices, including those of our speakers, have established units within their offices dedicated to protecting workers.

View video of roundtable discussion.... Read more about State AGs Protecting Workers' Rights Roundtable

Share on: