While legislators rallied and debated for higher pay for workers in Massachusetts and across the country, employees in the U.S. Senate cafeteria were being denied the wages they justly earned. After a year of controversy and investigation, the Labor Department’s division overseeing wage and hour laws recently reported that over 670 contract employees in the Senate cafeteria had been misclassified into lower-level jobs with lower pay. Many were required to work before clocking in.
Last December when new contracts were finalized for the cafeteria staff, the contracts included pay raises. However, many workers never received their raises. The subcontractor who hired the workers now owes them $1,008,302 in back wages. This equals about $1,500 for each worker.
The head of the Wage and Hour Division noted that people who work in food services are among those in the country who struggle hardest to pay their bills with their inadequate wages. He stated that it is wrong for people to work hard without receiving a legal wage for that work. In addition to issuing the back pay, the subcontractor has corrected the classification of the employees. Nevertheless, this subcontractor may be barred from future federal contracts for its illegal practices.
Some labor advocates believe the unethical cost-cutting methods of the subcontractor on Capitol Hill are a small example of the violations of wage and hour laws going on across the country. Advocates also admit that the Labor Department cannot possibly investigate every contractor who is breaking the law. People in Massachusetts who are being denied their fair wages have every right to seek legal counsel to explore the possibility of recouping lost pay.
Source: The Washington Post, “Senate workers will get $1 million in back pay after Labor Department probe“, Mike Debonis, July 27, 2016