Halliburton Fined for Overtime Pay While California, Wisconsin Consider New Laws Against Wage Theft

Oil and gas giant Halliburton has agreed to pay $18.3 million to more than 1,000 workers improperly classified as exempt from overtime pay in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor. It is one of the largest overtime settlements with the U.S. Government in recent years.

According to the Labor Department, all salaried workers at Halliburton were automatically exempted from overtime. The law instead requires employers to pay overtime even to employees receiving salaries if their job duties or income do not qualify them for the FLSA exemption.

This is one of many developments happening in the fight against wage theft across the country. In California, lawmakers this month approved a bill that would allow the labor commissioner in California to put a lien on an employer’s property for unpaid wages.

The California law would also prevent owners from closing down a business and reopening it under a new name. At the beginning of the month, a Los Angeles Times story cited this as an example of one of the many ways that businesses were circumventing the requirement that they pay wages pursuant to the law.

The L.A. Times article also suggested that the California Legislature was considering making companies jointly liable for the payment of workers providing services for them. We haven’t yet reviewed the law to see if this made it into the final approved version but this would be a huge step forward in the fight against wage theft. Other states should consider such a law.

In other news, Wisconsin Democrats have proposed a bill to strengthen enforcement against employers stealing wages, allowing fines of up to $1,000 per violation and imposing interest on the money owed. Unfortunately, the legislature is controlled by Republicans so the measure probably stands a slim chance of passing as written.

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