Laborers Oppose Open Records Fee
In written testimony offered to the Assembly Government Operations Committee, District Council Business Manager Mike Ryan joined with others in organized labor to object to a bill introduced in the Assembly that would have created a filing fee for information currently available to the public under the States Open Records law.
According to the bills author, AB 420 is intended to curb frivolous open records requests. Ryans concern however, was that the bill as written would deter workers and third parties from pursuing legitimate complaints against employers suspected of violating state prevailing wage law.
In his testimony, Ryan noted that one of the responsibilities of the Department of Workforce Developments Equal Rights Division was to enforce wage and hour laws on public works projects and that the Division encouraged individuals and third parties to gather and present strong evidence before asking the Department to investigate suspected wage and hour violations.
This is especially true on public works projects, Ryan said. The Division recommends individuals and third parties use Wisconsin open records law as the means to secure payroll information to substantiate their claims before an investigation is initiated.
Obtaining payroll information is not easy. Typically, a request for payroll records is made by an individual or third part through the awarding agency. Once the request is made, it is the contractor who must supply the information. At times, awarding agencies and contractors have challenged their responsibilities under the law and have complied only after the Equal Rights Division or the State Attorney General has instructed them to do so.
Given the time an awarding agency and/or contractor may spend locating these records, it will not be difficult for either to exceed the $5 threshold established in this bill if they wanted to.
Opponents of the Bill noted that it is already very difficult to get workers to file complaints against employer when they suspect they are owed back-wages and benefits.
The state should not be in the business of making it even more difficult for workers to substantiate suspected wage and hour violations by creating what amounts to a minimum $5 fee for the privilege of gathering the public information they will need in order to make their case, Ryan said. Clearly, this is not the intent of AB 420, nor should it be one of the results.
AB 420 is in committee and is not scheduled to be sent to the full Assembly.
Back to WI Laborers