Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. Employer fraud happens more than businesses would like folks to think, and Mr. Jernigan writes a “Top 10” list at the end of each year talking about this problem. His list in 2012 was called “$97 Million In Fraud: 2012′s Top 10 Workers’ Compensation Fraud Cases.” That blog post includes an example of labor violations when a company in Massachusetts misclassified employees as subcontractors. The article that was the focus in last Monday’s blog post, “Connecticut Employers Shut Down For Not Paying Workers’ Compensation Insurance,” also talked about misclassification as a form of employer fraud. Although it appears to happen in construction a lot, this type of fraud can occur in other industries, too. And as can be seen in just the article below, misclassification fraud isn’t limited to specific states but can happen anywhere. It is helpful to see some action occurring, both in the courts and legislatively.
The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered more than $1 million in back wages and liquidated damages for 196 employees of Bowlin Group LLC and Bowlin Services LLC out of Ohio and Kentucky. Bowlin Services installed cable for Insight Communications, a cable, telephone and Internet provider in Kentucky. The defendants misclassified 77 employees as independent contractors and violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by denying these workers access to critical benefits, including minimum wage, overtime, family and medical leave, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and failing to maintain accurate payroll records.
Misclassifying employees negatively impacts our economy, generating losses to the U.S. Treasury, Social Security and Medicare funds, state unemployment insurance, and state workers’ compensation funds. It also leads to unfair competition because businesses that play by the rules are at a disadvantage.
This problem has become so acute in Tennessee that last month the legislature passed Senate Bill 833, which has been signed into law and imposes penalties on construction companies for misclassifying workers in an attempt to evade workers’ compensation premiums. A Tennessee study in 2012 revealed losses of up to $91.6 million in workers’ compensation premiums. North Carolina has identified the problem but has yet to take any action. Until states aggressively prosecute misclassification, this fraud will continue.