Business & Tech

Dudley packaging company to pay nearly $1 million for wage violations

Attorney General Maura Healey announced Wednesday that Shield Packaging Co. Inc. agreed to pay nearly $1 million for wage violations and misleading investigators.
CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF
Attorney General Maura Healey announced Wednesday that Shield Packaging Co. Inc. agreed to pay nearly $1 million for wage violations and misleading investigators.

In a continued crackdown on companies that use staffing firms to deflect their responsibility to workers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Wednesday that a Dudley aerosol container factory and its executives have agreed to pay nearly $1 million for wage violations and misleading investigators.

The staffing agencies that supplied workers to Shield Packaging Co. Inc. paid the workers $1-$2 an hour below the state minimum wage, which is currently $11, according to an investigation conducted in conjunction with the US Department of Labor. As a result, workers’ overtime rates were less than they should have been. Employees were also not paid overtime for putting on and removing safety equipment, which is required by federal law. In addition, two employeeswere allegedly directed to cover up facts during the investigation.

The attorney general’s office said that the use of staffing agencies was a deliberate attempt by the company to insulate itself from legal liability. No action has yet been taken against the staffing agencies, which were not named.

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Under the terms of the state settlement, roughly 480 workers — who fill, label, and package aerosol containers — will receive an average of $600 each; more than 120 of them will get more than $1,000 each. Two executives — the president and plant manager —are responsible for paying $564,000 under the state settlement. The company has agreed to pay more than $420,000 in the federal settlement.

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Shield Packaging must also improve its record keeping and monitor the payroll practices of its staffing agencies, according to the state settlement.

“This action resolves allegations that this employer robbed low-wage workers of money that they had earned, while at the same time gaining an unfair advantage over honest businesses,” Healey said in a statement.

Shield Packaging denies the allegations and declined to comment on the settlement.

More employers are attempting to hide behind staffing agencies, according to Healey’s office. Earlier this year, the attorney general investigated two other companies that relied on staffing agencies to provide its workers

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In March, a Lowell reusable bag factory agreed to nearly $1.2 million in state and federal settlements, and three staffing agencies were fined more than $80,000 for their role in underpaying workers.

Later that month, a Dorchester commercial laundry company agreed to pay $900,000 for alleged wage and hour violations; the temp company and its owners, who supplied the workers, were indicted for wage theft, intimidation, and retaliation. The case is scheduled for trial in Suffolk Superior Court in January.

Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.