Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are crafting legislation that would protect Michigan workers against “wage theft” by raising criminal and civil penalties on businesses deemed in violation of wage laws, according to the Detroit News. While there are already state laws in place to shield workers against this kind of exploitation, the proposed bills are intended to strengthen existing legislation and to scare off any business’ attempts to take advantage of workers by deducting from paychecks illegally, refusing meal breaks, or not properly paying tipped employees. The proposed policy changes would also give workers eligibility to receive three times the amount they’re owed from their employers, as opposed to the two times they’re potentially allowed currently.
NFIB and many other business groups are against such legislation because it would add even more red tape to comply with, on top of existing regulations. “We don’t support any employer that knowingly violates wage and hour laws, but the intention of the bills that we’ve seen in other states is strictly to be punitive and put the burden of proof entirely on the employer, which in current law it already is to some extent,” said NFIB Michigan Director Charlie Owens.
The bills have not been formally introduced in the House or the Senate yet, but lawmakers are expecting to have House Speaker Tom Leonard consider the bills after they’re introduced. It’s uncertain whether the legislation will gain any traction in the Legislature, because it’s currently backed by predominantly Democrats and will need Republican support in order to advance.