The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office (WCPO) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formally establishing a collaborative partnership to enforce workers’ rights, conduct joint investigations, and share information. The MOU will expand and improve the protection of Washtenaw County’s workforce, and level the playing field for responsible employers.
The MOU was formally signed on July 26th, 2022 at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 252/UA Local 190 union hall in Washtenaw County. Labor leaders from across Washtenaw County joined the Prosecutor’s Office and the DOL for the signing.
This partnership is the first of its kind between a Michigan county prosecutor and the DOL. Because state and federal law often provide different protections for workers, the MOU will allow WCPO and the DOL to coordinate on investigations, and collaboratively determine whether to bring local or federal enforcement actions. The agencies also agreed to cross-train investigators and other staff at least once a year.
“The Prosecutor’s Office is dedicated to pursuing justice when people are harmed, and I am excited that we have made further progress in fighting for worker protection,” said Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit. “This MOU provides another tool to work with federal partners to hold accountable those who have imposed unlawful financial or economic harm to their employees.”
“This is a first-of-its-kind agreement between the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and a Michigan county, and it will facilitate coordination on investigations by federal and Washtenaw County agents as they collaboratively determine if local or federal enforcement actions are needed,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri in Chicago. “Our partnership will allow our organizations to better protect workers in the county while holding employers accountable when they violate workers’ rights.”
In addition to collaborative investigatory and enforcement work, the agencies agreed to conduct joint outreach presentations and prepare and distribute publications for the community. Both agreed to work with each other to provide a side-by-side comparison of laws with overlapping provisions and jurisdiction. The MOU will thus provide further opportunity to spread awareness about workers’ rights and wage and hour laws.
Last year, the Prosecutor’s Office announced the formation of an Economic Justice Unit to specifically focus on economic harms. The Unit, initially funded through a grant by the Public Rights Project, focuses on workers’ rights, consumer protection, and labor-trafficking.
“This partnership increases our outreach and strengthens our ability to help workers by leveraging local expertise with federal resources to enforce the law,” said Todd Pierce-Ryan, head of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Economic Justice Unit.
For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Act and other laws enforced by the DOL Wage and Hour Division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
For more information about the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Economic Justice Unit, visit the EJU Website or fill out this form to tell the EJU about economic harm in Washtenaw County.