State labor officials said Tuesday that they recovered nearly $475,000 in wages that employers failed to pay workers last year, and for the first time, the department is making public the names of businesses that violate wage and hour laws.

The Maine Department of Labor took action against more than two dozen employers penalized for violating the state’s wage and hour laws and published the names on a department web page.

“We hope that further publicizing the work the department does and the consequences of violating labor laws will both encourage workers who believe their rights have been violated to contact us and deter bad-acting employers from violating laws in the first place,” said Scott Cotnoir, director of the labor department’s wage and hour division.

Making sure all employers comply with wage and hours laws ensures that everyone plays by the same rules: Workers are paid what they’re owed and employers can compete for labor on a level playing field, officials said.

The department is publishing the list of 2021 violators and the amount they were fined at maine.gov/labor/bls/whv2021/index.shtml and said it plans to update the site quarterly.

The department also said it is increasing its use of settlement agreements with businesses to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws. The agreements typically last two or three years and require businesses to train managers on employment law and disclose wage and other information to demonstrate they are complying with the law.

Advertisement

If an employer is cooperative, the labor department said, it may suspend a portion of the assessed penalties, but offending companies must still pay employees back wages owed to employees. The department said it can increase penalties significantly if a settlement agreement isn’t followed.

The department said it negotiated four settlement agreements in 2020 and 10 last year.

The 2021 settlements recovered $100,009 in back pay and damages for 155 workers and assessed nearly $17,000 in civil penalties against employers. Twenty-four employers that didn’t enter into agreements with the department were assessed civil penalties of more than $112,000, the department said.

For example, state officials recovered more than $60,000 in tips for workers at a South Paris restaurant where it found hundreds of wage and hour violations, including misallocation of tips, failure to make timely and full payment of wages and failure to maintain time records.

The money was recovered from Luchador Tacos for 14 workers whose tips had been illegally withheld, the department said.

The department said the restaurant cooperated after the violations were uncovered and quickly paid the wages and penalties. The restaurant was fined $21,900 for violating laws on the full and timely payment of wages; $35,800 for violating laws on record-keeping, and $11,700 for violating overtime pay laws, the department said.

The most common violation by Maine employers in 2021 was failing to make timely and full payment of wages, a department spokeswoman said. A report next month to the Legislature on wage and hour violations will provide more detail, she said.

The Legislature last year authorized three new inspectors for the state’s wage and hour division and another assistant attorney general for enforcement of employment, wage and hour laws.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.