Tag Archive for: DOL Enforcement


Congressman Morgan McGarvey Introduces Bill to Help USDOL Build Its Labor Inspectorate

[The following is a press release from Rep. McGarvey’s office dated December 06, 2023]

Congressman Morgan McGarvey Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Labor Rights Violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 06, 2023) – Today, Congressman Morgan McGarvey (KY-03) introduced the Workers Protecting Our Wage Earners’ Rights Act, or Workers POWER Act, alongside Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, Congressional Labor Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01), and Rep. Greg Casar (TX-35). The bill will equip the Department of Labor with the resources needed to tackle federal labor law violations including child labor, wage theft, and workplace health and safety violations.

“Everyday working people are the ones who power this country, and they deserve to work with dignity, free from concerns of stolen wages or having their health and safety put at risk,” said Rep. Morgan McGarvey. “This bill creates a better future for our country’s workers by empowering the Department of Labor to crack down on bad actors engaging in conduct ranging from child labor violations to wage theft. I’m proud to lead my colleagues in the fight to prevent our workers from being exploited and will continue working to ensure every worker in our country makes good wages and has safe working conditions.”

The Workers POWER Act grew out of a federal investigation into several Louisville McDonald’s which were found in violation of child labor law and fined $212K by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The investigators uncovered numerous violations, including 305 minors working illegally and two 10-year-old children working as late as 2:00 a.m. Despite the best efforts of the hardworking federal investigators, reports of child labor have continued to make headlines while staffing shortages at the Wage and Hour Division remain pertinent due to underfunding.

This legislation improves the pipeline, capacity, and resources into the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To do so, the legislation seeks to increase the slots in pipeline programs, incentivize recruitment and retention, promote reports on the needs of the Department of Labor to best enforce labor laws, and create a grant program to states to increase labor violations enforcement.

“The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are an essential line of defense against wage theft, abusive child labor, and unsafe workplaces. Regrettably, these agencies and their staff have been left without the resources and support they need to fulfill DOL’s promise to workers. This is particularly dangerous at a time when unscrupulous employers are robbing workers of hard-earned pay and there is a surge in horrific incidents of child labor and workplace injuries and deaths,” said Ranking Member Scott. “The Workers POWER Act would help ensure that WHD and OSHA have access to a strong pipeline of talent and can provide their staff with the support they deserve.  We must invest in the individuals who dedicate themselves to protecting the rights and safety of American workers.”

“No worker should be subjected to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. As a former electrician, I saw many friends and coworkers seriously injured and killed on the job due to dangerous and exploitative working conditions,” said Congressman Norcross, co-chair of the Labor Caucus. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Workers POWER Act to empower the Department of Labor with the tools and resources it needs to enforce federal labor laws, protect workers, and crack down on exploitative labor practices. The health and safety of America’s workers remains one of my top priorities in Congress, and I will continue to work with both sides of the aisle to keep them safe and healthy.”

“Right now, people are being forced to work unsafe and dangerous jobs by some of the biggest corporations across the country,” said Congressman Casar. “We must increase the Department of Labor’s resources to help them tackle the increasing number of labor violations, hold these big corporations accountable, and protect U.S. workers for the long haul.”

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U.S. DOL News Release: Court orders operators of 14 Bay Area Subway locations to pay employees nearly $1M in wages, damages; sell or shut down their businesses

News Release/U.S. DOL/September 29, 2023

Labor Department finds employers endangered children, bounced paychecks, stole tips

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ordered the owners and operators of 14 Bay Area Subway restaurants to pay employees nearly $1 million in back wages and damages after federal investigators found they directed children as young as 14 and 15 to use dangerous equipment and assigned minors to work hours not permitted by law; failed to pay employees their wages regularly, including by issuing them hundreds of bad checks; and illegally kept tips left by customers.

In a rare action, the court’s order requires the owners to sell or shut down their businesses by Nov. 27, 2023, a term the department insisted on to resolve the case.

The action comes after the department’s Wage and Hour Division found these and other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by John Michael Meza and his wife, Jessica L. Meza, who had franchise agreements with franchisor and operator Doctor’s Associates LLC to operate the restaurants in Antioch, Clayton, Concord, Cotati, Napa, Petaluma, San Pablo, Santa Rosa, Vallejo and Windsor.

Investigators also found the employers interfered with the division’s review by coercing employees not to cooperate and threatening children who raised concerns or tried to exercise their legal rights. The department’s investigation also found that the Mezas’ associate, Hamza “Mike” Ayesh, played a role in these violations, including threatening an employee who complained about receiving a bounced payroll check.

The department obtained a preliminary court injunction on May 19, 2023, forbidding the employers from violating child labor laws, threatening and retaliating against workers and obstructing a federal investigation.

On Sept. 27, 2023, the department obtained a consent judgment and permanent injunction that orders the Mezas to pay 184 workers $475,000 in minimum wage, overtime and tips and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The court also ordered them to pay $150,000 in penalties. The Mezas and Ayesh will also have to pay $12,000 in punitive damages for their retaliatory conduct.

“Thanks to some very brave young people who stood up to their employers’ exploitation and attempts to intimidate them, the Department of Labor and a federal court are holding these business owners accountable,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez in San Francisco. “With the combined efforts of Wage and Hour Division investigators and the department’s Office of the Solicitor, these employers are facing the consequences for endangering the safety and well-being of children and violating federal law.”

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Joint Letter by Humanity United, Child Labor Coalition, and Valued Partners: Urgent Action Needed to Protect Children from Labor Exploitation

May 1, 2023

As organizations working to address human trafficking and labor exploitation, we are appalled by the horrific conditions children experienced after fleeing to the United States for refuge. This series in the New York Times demonstrates our government’s inability, unwillingness, or outright refusal to protect minors from forced labor.

This most recent story reveals that the federal government failed to act on multiple warnings and reports about migrant children being forced to work illegal shifts in auto factories, food packing plants, construction sites, and other poorly-regulated jobs. The Times reports that despite hundreds of calls reporting incidents of abuse, neglect, or trafficking, thousands of migrant children have been forced to work illegally within the U.S. The Biden Administration reportedly “treated these as discrete events, not as signs of a mounting problem.”

Other recent stories, including the Department of Labor’s own statements, reveal that this is a mounting problem, and one that needs urgent action.

Earlier this year, the Labor Department reported that it had seen a nearly 70 percent increase in child labor violations over the last five years, and that in the most recent fiscal year, more than 800 companies were found to have broken child labor laws.

Across the globe, businesses capitalize on migrant workers’ vulnerability, specifically targeting them for exploitation. Migrant workers already face language, cultural, and social barriers. They suffer from weak legal protections, limited resources, and minimal access to safety net services. For migrant children separated from their families, these factors are compounded by increased risks of food and shelter insecurity, decreased mobility, and a lack of a social support network. This often leaves children with no recourse if they end up in a situation of exploitation.

This practice is sadly commonplace around the world, and we know from our work that the United States is no exception. The Times series proves this once again.

The individuals and businesses that target these children and exploit their vulnerabilities should face serious financial and criminal penalties. Yet this is rarely the case. One of the largest companies caught by the Department of Labor, Packer Sanitation Services, Inc., makes more than $450 million in annual revenue, but it paid only a $1.5 million fine for the violations. The company faced no criminal charges for illegally hiring more than a hundred children to work in hazardous conditions, cleaning meatpacking plants at night.

Federal officials need to do more than report, they need to take swift and meaningful action.

The federal government has failed to provide adequate protections for these children. The children need sustained and meaningful case management services, which are critical to preventing this exploitation. The federal government should provide resources and support to these children. Without adequate support, these children are vulnerable to exploitation. Businesses have targeted these vulnerabilities, profiting from the labor of children as young as 12. We are also horrified to see that many states have passed bills recently to make this exploitation more, not less, likely.

The Department of Labor must increase its targeted child labor investigations, use the tools at its disposal to ensure that states do not weaken child labor laws, and take measures to protect children from dangerous or hazardous conditions. As an example, safety protections for children who work in agriculture have not been updated in four decades.

Employers, including factory owners, must be held accountable and face serious penalties for violating child labor laws. The Labor Department must continuously monitor those companies with multiple infractions and impose even harsher penalties if they commit additional violations. The Department must also penalize companies that benefit from child labor – even if the children are technically forced to work by intermediary or secondary firms.

The government must also act to provide adequate remedy and additional protections, including continuous case management services for the children involved. If children are temporarily held in custody, it must be brief and humane.

Finally, the Biden Administration must accompany this urgent action with meaningful efforts to increase oversight and inter-agency collaboration to protect the children.

At the heart of every single one of these stories is a business that would rather take advantage of children than pay the true cost of labor. This is unacceptable. The U.S. government must use its power and authority to end these abuses.


Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Beyond Borders
Child Labor Coalition (consisting of 39 organizational members)
Economic Policy Institute
First Focus
Global March Against Child Labour
Human Trafficking Legal Center
Humanity United
Iowa Federation of Labor
Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation -US
Media Voices for Children
National Consumers league
Phoenix Zones Initiative
Prime International Social Enterprise