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Virginia Indictments Send Message About Worker Misclassification

Attorney General Mark Herring is charging two Richmond-area labor brokers with worker misclassification, essentially avoiding paying workers unemployment or covering workers compensation by calling the workers contractors instead of employees.

Frank Mahoney at the Carpenter's Union says the attorney general should also go after the general contractors. "They're just as guilty," Mahoney says. "There's GCs that should be held accountable for what they're doing. There's laws on the books that they should be held accountable, and this is a great first step. But if you really want to send a message, we've really got to get to the people who are hiring these guys."

The companies named in the indictment were constructing the new General Assembly Building in Richmond, where lawmakers will have offices and hold committee meetings.

Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says these criminal indictments are meant to send a message. "When you see these types of high-profile cases, it's designed to be punitive in nature, and hopefully to get unscrupulous employers to think about how they classify employees so that there's a preventive effect rather than the government trying to chase down every possible tax evader."

An attorney who says he represents the two Richmond-area subcontractors says he has no comment on the criminal indictments.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.