New office in Maryland set to look into wage and overtime theft, workplace fraud

11 January 2024- Governor Wes Moore this week signed an executive order to renew and expand a cross-governmental task force dedicated to strengthening investigations and enforcement of laws regarding workplace fraud. The nine-member Joint Enforcement Task Force on Workplace Fraud, chaired by Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Portia Wu, includes Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown and Comptroller Brooke E. Lierman.

“We will never tolerate the exploitation of Maryland workers,” said Gov. Moore. “This order will help ensure that employees receive the pay and benefits they’ve earned while driving fair competition in the private sector. Today, we take an important step toward a more equitable, competitive, and prosperous economy that lifts all Marylanders.”

Workplace fraud deprives workers of basic protections such as rights to minimum wage and overtime pay, health insurance coverage, and access to unemployment benefits. Businesses may also be put at a disadvantage when competitors misclassify workers. As a result, required taxes may be unpaid, which lowers state revenue and impacts funding to pay for critical public services. 

“Companies that hire workers and misclassify them to circumvent our tax and labor laws are committing serious fraud that erodes basic rights and benefits, saddles workers with an undue financial burden, and undermines the economic well-being of our state,” said Comptroller Brooke E. Lierman. “This executive order expands our ability to share information, coordinate resources, and investigate suspected workplace fraud to protect Marylanders and their families. We should all stand against this form of egregious theft. I thank Governor Moore for prioritizing this issue and I look forward to working as a partner in this initiative to build a stronger and fairer Maryland.”

As outlined in the executive order, the task force will collaborate to share information and data across agencies and drive strategic and effective enforcement. It will identify industries where workplace fraud is more prevalent and focus efforts to address the problem, including stronger outreach to businesses and workers. The task force will also make recommendations on where regulations and laws may be strengthened.

The task force will advance the Moore-Miller Administration’s efforts to make Maryland a fair and equitable place to work and do business. Studies have shown that workers of color, immigrants, young workers and those in low-wage employment are most at risk for exploitation, including misclassification and wage theft.