Maine Department of Labor Publishes 2023 Wage and Hour Violations Report Bookmark and Share

February 28, 2024

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2024

Maine Department of Labor Publishes 2023 Wage and Hour Violations Report

AUGUSTA - Today the Maine Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Standards released its 2023 Wage and Hour Violations report. The report outlines how there is a lot of work to do to achieve economy-wide compliance with labor laws, but the Bureau of Labor Standards is developing creative ways of maximizing the impact of its existing tools, such as strategic enforcement, and is currently exploring new tools to be even more effective.

"Strategic enforcement allows the department to use our limited resources to better protect workers as required by the law," said Laura Fortman, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor. "We will use all of our tools, including enforcement, outreach, education, and collaboration to level the playing field for both workers and ethical employers."

Academic studies, anecdotal evidence, enforcement agencies institutional experience and governmental survey data on the number of workers paid below minimum wage all consistently paint the same picture: there is a very large problem nationally of unreported and unenforced labor law violations. This has multiple explanations: sometimes workers do not report violations because they do not know how, or because they fear retaliation. Sometimes there is a lack of knowledge about employment rights. Most enforcement agencies have severe resource constraints, rendering impossible the enforcement of every complaint even if all violations were reported to the agency. Maine is no exception to these challenges. And the Bureau of Labor Standards is determined to rise to the challenge.

Maine's Bureau of Labor Standards has been increasingly shifting toward what is sometimes called "strategic enforcement." This effectively means using the resources and tools at its disposal as effectively as possible to increase economy-wide compliance with the law. The Bureau has started triaging complaints, to focus on those complaints from the most vulnerable workers and in industries where its enforcement action is most likely to have a lasting effect. The Bureau has also sought to simplify and increase penalties on bad actors as well as obtain the power to order employers to pay back wages. The Bureau will also be developing a methodology to study where violations are occurring in the state and to design annual evidence-based strategies for enforcement off the back of the studies. And the Bureau will be consulting with employers to develop guidance materials and to more effectively communicate how it will interpret the statutes it administers.

Maine law requires the Bureau of Labor Standards to submit a series of reports each year to the Joint Standing Committee on Labor and Housing. Among these annual reports is one on the number of complaints the Bureau receives each year, the number of violations, and the amount of penalties the Bureau is able to recover from employers. These numbers alone, however, do not tell the extent of labor law violations occurring in the economy as a whole. So, this years report take a different format in order to convey that information. It points to anecdotal evidence from workers and employment lawyers, studies using the governmental data on minimum wage violations, and the Bureaus own institutional experience. The report shows there is much that the Bureau does well; for example, the Bureau recovered 100% penalties it imposed in cases it was able to open and close in 2023. And over the years the Bureau has recovered wages that make a significant difference to the workers receiving them. The evidence also shows that when viewed through the prism of achieving economy-wide compliance with labor law, there is a lot of work to do. Through creative and cutting-edge strategic methods, the Bureau is intent on doing it.

The full report can be read here: