In a telling follow-up to my last post on states slashing budgets to trim deficits, Jordan Green at YES! Weekly in Greensboro, NC has an excellent piece of reporting on what happens to workers who get stiffed by their employers.
Despite a growing number of workers being laid off or fired without receiving proper pay, the N.C. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Bureau is cutting back, making only two attempts to collect from the employer before telling the empty-handed workers the case is "unresolved":
"Because of personnel turnover we couldn't keep up with the inventory, so we modified to limited services procedures to where we were making two attempts to contact, and then making a decision of how to proceed," said Jim Taylor, the state's wage and hour administrator. "And if we didn't get voluntary payment in most cases, it was referred back to the complainant."
The Wage and Hour Bureau is stretched thin, Taylor said. Claims for nonpayment of wages are up at a time when longtime investigators are retiring, less experienced employees are seeking better pay in the private sector and the bureau is generally suffering from high turnover.
[T]he number of cases [of North Carolina employers not paying workers] open more than doubled from 722 in fiscal year 2005 to 1,961 in fiscal year 2006. Caseload currently hovers at around 1,200. The cost incurred by the bureau's limited-service mode has been a decline in the share of cases resolved with a factual determination from 62.2 to 55.8 percent from 2005 to 2007, while cases closed with no response from the employer skyrocketed from 1.9 to 16.1 percent over the same period.
Green also reports that the bureau is currently "opting to not use an enforcement statute" that would compel deadbeat employers to turn over records, "nor does the bureau have sufficient staff to conduct onsite investigations."