Opinion: Protect workers from payroll fraud
Voters in this state made it clear in 2018: We need to fix the damn roads. Repairing infrastructure in our state is a top priority for Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, and for obvious reasons.
But if we want to fix our roads and strengthen our middle class, we must take into consideration the people who will actually be doing the work. The need for skilled trades jobs in our state, especially in construction, is here and will continue to be. But we can’t expect people to want to work in an industry where there’s a high likelihood of being cheated out of the wages they earn.
One in 3 Michigan companies, most in construction, commit payroll fraud by misclassifying employees as temporary workers. That means that the people who are fixing and rebuilding our roads, schools, and bridges are at risk of being cheated out of the full-time wages, benefits, and overtime they earned. Between 2013 and 2015 alone, scamming businesses stole $429 million out of the pockets of Michigan workers. Payroll fraud doesn’t just affect workers, either: When businesses misclassify workers, Michigan taxpayers are shortchanged $107 million a year in revenue.
Prior to holding this seat, I spent many years waiting tables. A lot of people in the service industry can speak to working long, hard hours, yet struggling to make ends meet. Frankly, so can a lot of people in our state, regardless of their line of work.
To combat this, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office created the Payroll Fraud Enforcement Unit earlier this year to go after bad actors in every industry. And when we pass legislation that prosecutes bad businesses and protects whistleblowers, people in Michigan will be further protected from greedy businesses looking to pocket workers’ rightfully owed money.
No hardworking Michiganian deserves to be ripped off, and good businesses shouldn’t suffer while bad actors get away with theft. To do better by the people who will literally be fixing our roads, it’s imperative that we make sure that no one gets cheated out of a paycheck because bad businesses want to keep workers’ hard-earned money for themselves.
If you’re a victim of payroll fraud, or suspect your employer is committing payroll fraud, call the Attorney General’s Payroll Fraud Hotline at (833) 221-1099.
State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, is serving her first term representing Michigan's 19th House District.