RICHMOND, Va. – A new unit is being created within the state attorney general’s office focused on protecting workers and educating them on their rights.
Attorney General Mark Herring made the announcement Wednesday.
The unit will be made up of a team of prosecutors and attorneys who will work to investigate people and businesses that are exploiting workers.
Herring says the first area the Worker Protection Unit will focus on is worker misclassification, wage theft and payroll fraud.
According to a 2012 report by the Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission, up to a third of audited employers in certain industries misclassify employees.
Worker misclassification is when people are identified as “independent contractors” when they should be considered employees.
It allows employers to avoid paying unemployment and certain taxes and unemployment insurances.
It also means workers don’t get as much pay and benefits as they should.
The report found that worker misclassification lowers Virginia’s state income tax collections by as much as $28 million per year.