The Montgomery County Council voted Tuesday to tighten enforcement of a living wage law that hasn’t always protected the interests of low-income workers employed by county contractors.
A 2002 law requires that companies providing janitorial, cleaning and other services to Montgomery government pay living-wage salaries that are adjusted annually based on the consumer price index. The living wage is currently $14.35 an hour.
In May, The Washington Post reported on a group of women who cleaned county parking garages for Camco, a Gaithersburg firm. In some instances, their hourly wages sank as low as $8.65 because of deductions for benefits they neither requested nor received, including cellphones, uniforms and vision coverage. The company’s county contract has since ended.
The new measure, sponsored by council members Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County) and Marc Elrich (D-At Large), bars improper payroll deductions and requires the county to perform regular audits of company books. The county can withold payments to firms in violation. The bill also removes a provision in the current law that exempted workers covered by union contracts from living-wage guarantees.
The new enforcement and penalty sections are modeled after laws in some of the 140 other local and state governments that establish living wages.
“Montgomery County’s Living Wage law is designed to protect workers from abuses by employers and [the new bill] provides teeth to ensure the County can enforce it appropriately,” Navarro said in a statement.