Enforcement of Workplace Standards

Across the country, growing numbers of employers routinely violate our nation's core workplace standards by not paying the minimum wage or overtime, calling workers "independent contractors" to deny them basic protections, and providing unsafe working conditions.  These practices are driving down standards throughout the labor market, putting employers who play by the rules at an unfair disadvantage.  At the same time, workers' ability to respond is often constrained - by outdated government enforcement systems, fear of retaliation for speaking up, and lack of immigration status.

NELP works with immigrant worker centers, unions, policy advocates and government agencies to modernize systems for enforcing employment and labor laws.  We develop  best practices for state and federal agencies, conduct strategic litigation, and support campaigns by organizing groups.  Our newly-launched National Wage and Hour Clearinghouse (www.just-pay.org) highlights these initiatives around the country.

Our enforcement work consists of five integrated programs:

  • Strengthening Government Enforcement of Wage Laws

    Our nation's government enforcement agencies are the frontline in guaranteeing workplace protections.  NELP works with state and federal labor departments and attorneys general to modernize these systems to ensure that all workers receive basic protections. 

  • Support for Wage Campaigns by Worker Centers and Unions

    Across the country, campaigns to combat wage theft are a growing focus of immigrant worker centers and unions.  For more than a decade, we have supported this dynamic movement by providing technical assistance, legislative and policy models, and litigation support. 

  • Independent Contractor Misclassification and Subcontracting

    Growing numbers of employers are trying to avoid paying fair wages and benefits by redefining their relationships with their employees, improperly calling them "independent contractors" or subcontracting key functions of their business to other companies.   NELP works with allies to close these loopholes, which harm workers and responsible employers alike.

  • Industry Strategies

    The problem of workplace violations is especially serious in fast-growing service industries such as health care, child care, food services, and day labor.  We partner with immigrant worker centers and unions to develop new industry-targeted solutions to help bring these important jobs out of the underground economy. 

  • Litigation

    Because government enforcement resources are limited, lawsuits brought by workers and advocates are a key component of our workplace enforcement system.  NELP supports strategic wage and hour litigation involving key legal issues and industries. 

See also our work in the areas of Immigrants and Work and Living Wage and Minimum Wage.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Cathy Ruckelshaus, cruckelshaus@nelp.org.