MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County District Attorney has a warning for employers: He has advanced efforts to prosecute wage exploitation.
The people most affected by wage exploitation include Ivan Flores, who worked 17-hour days for a local landscaper but never got paid overtime.
In fact, between 2017 and 2020, the Economic Policy Institute estimated U.S. workers lost out on $3 billion in wages due to unfair business practices. Often, the workers are in fields like food service and construction.
Brett Hulme represents the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, who’ve joined with DA Steve Mulroy on this initiative.
“The ultimate responsibility is going to end up with the employer because those are the bad apples spoiling the barrel,” Hulme said.
Mulroy told the WREG Problem Solvers in January he wanted to expand the economic crimes unit at the DA’s office and shift to focus more on workers, rather than things like bad checks.
“An employer has an employee but calls them an independent contractor to avoid paying them benefits,” he said as an example.
Since then, Mulroy said they’ve added two new attorneys to the unit and have partnered with local unions like Hulme’s.
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“This partnership seeks to level the playing field and quite honestly allow those contractors playing by the rules the opportunity to play fair,” Hulme said.
“It robs the government of contributions to workers comp and unemployment insurance so it’s a theft on the government, a theft on all of us. It also hurts the legitimate employers,” Mulroy said.
Mulroy said his team is already investigating at least one case. They’re not ready to announce it yet.
► If you have a case you’d like to report, you can call the DA’s office at 901-222-1300 and ask for the economic crimes unit or email them at email@example.com.
► Got a problem? Contact WREG Problem Solver Stacy Jacobson at 901-543-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org