Two Montgomery County Council members plan to introduce legislation to bolster what they say are weaknesses in enforcement of the county’s “living wage” law.
The law, passed in 2002, requires that approximately 400 companies providing services to the county — including janitorial, cleaning and landscaping work — pay employees enough to make ends meet in a region where living costs are high. The rate, adjusted annually based on changes in the consumer price index, is currently $14.35 an hour.
But lack of enforcement provisions have enabled some county contractors to skirt the law. In May, The Washington Post reported on a group of women who cleaned public parking for Camco, a Gaithersburg company with a history of improper paycheck deductions, according to a county audit. In one case, a Camco employee’s hourly wage sank from $13.65 an hour to $8.65 because of deductions she neither asked for nor received, including cell phones, uniforms and vision coverage. Camco’s contract with the county has since expired.
The bill, sponsored by Council members Nancy Navarro (D-Silver Spring) and Marc Elrich (D-At-Large), would require living-wage contractors to submit quarterly payroll reports and the county to keep them for at least three years in the event that workers want to challenge employers in court.
The measure also provides for regular audits of contractors and gives the county the power to withhold payment if a violation is found.
Navarro and Elrich said the enforcement and penalties are modeled after the county’s more successful “prevailing wage” law. It requires that construction workers on county projects make the same as workers doing comparable jobs on private sector projects in the region.
“While we have made considerable progress in recent years to protect employees of County contractors and subcontractors from unfair practices, we still have along way to go,” Navarro and Elrich said in a Sept. 23 letter to council colleagues.
The bill is expected to be formally introduced next month.