HOOVLER TAKES FIGHT FOR WORKER RIGHTS TO COUNTY DA’S
By Barry Lewis, Vice President of Communications
Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler says that while the Coronavirus pandemic has put a temporary halt on much of the construction industry, he is stepping up efforts to crack down on wage theft.
He says that wage theft and construction fraud is costing taxpayers millions of dollars, local laborers the chance to earn a fair living wage and potentially risk the lives of residents who may be entering unsafe buildings.
New York State Labor Department statistics show that in 2018, more than $35.3 million in fraudulently obtained money was returned to 35,000 workers throughout the state who were victimized by wage theft and public work violations.
As president of the District Attorneys Association of New York, Hoovler says he wants to help train county prosecutors across the state on how to investigate and enforce wage theft laws while working with other stakeholders in the industry.
He planned to have representatives from the carpenters union and leaders from other trades to the association’s annual spring conference in Saratoga on the importance of networking to uncover labor related crimes and to discuss prevailing wage issues and how to deal with unscrupulous contractors who misclassify workers to avoid paying them a fair wage. While the actual conference was cancelled due to COVID-19 Hoover says he still plans on doing virtual summer conference on continuing legal education on wage theft.
“I understand that law enforcement budgets are stretched thin and that investigations into revenue-related crime aren’t always a priority, especially in areas with violent crime. I want to show other district attorneys that prosecuting these crimes are not complicated and don’t have to take up a lot of resources,” said Hoovler, noting the key is for district attorneys to develop relationships with union leaders who are seeing the crimes being committed.
“I met Todd (Diorio, president of the Hudson Valley Building Trades) years ago when I first began working in the D.A.’s office. I talk often with Alan Seidman who is on the management side. You have to rely on these people and their members to be your boots on the ground.”
In a letter to the Albany Times-Union published in March in which he talked about the prosecution of wage theft cases, Hoovler said there is state program already in place to aid law enforcement. The New York State Crimes Against Revenue Program provides grants for district attorneys to investigate and prosecute crimes such as tax fraud and wage theft. He notes that CARP is self-sustaining; it generates revenue back to the state through fines and restitution.
“When we come out of all this, you’re going to see an explosion and I fear a blooming wage theft economy. You’re going to have some employers try to take advantage of people who have been out of work, been suffering and been hurt. We have to be ready to step up and go after them and set an example.”
IF YOU KNOW SOMETHING, CALL
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office operates a Labor Crime Tip Line to receive reports of crimes involving the workplace, particularly crimes involving failure to pay proper wages, unsafe working conditions, prevailing wage violations, workers compensation fraud, and other crimes where either employees or the government have been victimized. Callers can leave information anonymously, or if they wish to be contacted by a District Attorney Office criminal investigator, they may leave their contact information. The Labor Crime Tip Line is (845) 291-2107.