Labor Department Expands Efforts To Uncover Employer Fraud

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Workers’ Compensation Division of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development has put into place new procedures to identify employers who engage in payroll fraud such as intentionally misclassifying workers as independent contractors, failing to report all wages paid, misrepresenting the kind of work performed, or paying workers “under the table.” These practices are typically used to avoid paying workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance tax premiums. 

“We are working aggressively to stop misclassification fraud by employers. When these unethical practices are identified, the Division of Workers’ Compensation of the Department of Labor & Workforce Development will assess administrative penalties for misclassification as well as refer cases for prosecution,” said Administrator for Workers’ Compensation Abbie Hudgens. 

The Employee Misclassification Advisory Task Force made recommendations that led to legislation to improve the state’s efforts to reduce misclassification fraud. The Department of Labor entered into a settlement that assessed a penalty of more than $300,000 against a drywall contractor who materially understated his payroll to his insurance carrier. The settlement is the largest ever of the department’s Employee Misclassification Education and Enforcement Fund. 

The Employee Misclassification Advisory Task Force, created by the General Assembly in 2010, made recommendations that led to legislation to improve the state’s efforts to reduce misclassification fraud. 

The Task Force submitted three annual reports to the Legislature – the latest on January 30. The following are among actions taken by the department based on Task Force recommendations. 

§  Establish a referral process for possible criminal prosecution:

Workers’ Compensation has referred cases to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or the appropriate District Attorney General for any action deemed necessary under any applicable criminal law. 

§  Hire additional investigators:

Three investigators, one of whom is bilingual, have been hired under the legislation since July 2013.

 §  Procure fraud detection software:

The Workers’ Compensation Division is in the last phase of acquiring this software. 

§  Launch a public awareness initiative:

o    The Workers’ Compensation division began a speaking tour in the summer of 2013 in which representatives from the division and the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance spoke at conferences and other venues across the state. These speakers continue to be available for future presentations.

o    The division created a Website that provides useful distinctions between employees and independent contractors.

o    The division offers a toll-free number, 800/332-2667, and a tip form, for citizens to report a business suspected of misclassifying its workers. 

Although the Employee Misclassification Advisory Task Force is scheduled to sunset on June 30, most of the current task force members have agreed to participate on a new Employee Misclassification Advisory Committee.


Christopher & Banks Opens New Store In Northgate Mall

Christopher & Banks Corporation, a women’s specialty retailer, Wednesday announced the grand opening of its new retail concept store at Northgate Mall.   The new store combines its Christopher & Banks and CJ Banks brands, bringing missy, petite and women’s sizes 4 – 24 into one shopping location. “We are thrilled to bring this concept to Chattanooga,” said LuAnn ... (click for more)

Volkswagen Celebrates 200 Million Vehicles Produced

The Volkswagen Group has now produced 200 million vehicles. Volkswagen is one of the few manufacturers in the world to have reached this total. At the Group evening, the sports car study Volkswagen XL Sport made its world debut as the 200 millionth Group vehicle. On the occasion of the production record, actress Catherine Deneuve, founding chairperson of “Cinema for Peace”, received ... (click for more)

Teen, 17, Charged With Aggravated Rape In Attack On 69-Year-Old North Chattanooga Runner

A 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated rape in connection with an attack on a 69-year-old runner in North Chattanooga on Monday morning. The teen was identified by Juvenile Court officials as Diontae Smartt. Authorities said he has given a confession. Smartt has a detention hearing Thursday at 12:30. The incident happened at approximately 7:30 a.m. ... (click for more)

Berke Implements New Pay Plan For Chattanooga Fire Department

Mayor Andy Berke joined the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and leadership of the Chattanooga Fire Department to unveil the department’s new pay plan Wednesday afternoon. At a press conference at Fire Hall #1 on Main Street, Mayor Berke and IAFF Local 820 President Jack Thompson signed a memorandum of understanding which sets forth regular raises for fire ... (click for more)

Leaders Lead On Amendment 1

This week the Hamilton County Commission was faced with what I believe may be one of the most important votes they have cast during their tenure.  Granted, the vote was over a "mere" Resolution that resulted in no overt action or new law in our county.  But there are times when simply speaking Truth and taking a stand on a foundational Principle is paramount and as such ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)