After a little more than a week in his new job, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary-designate Bill McCamley made a major, albeit temporary, rule change for federal employees seeking unemployment benefits because of the ongoing federal government shutdown. McCamley announced Wednesday that he is temporarily waiving a federally mandated work requirement to receive state unemployment benefits. “If you file for unemployment, by federal law, you’re supposed to show that you were looking for two jobs a week, and if you get a job and you turn it down, you lose unemployment,” McCamley told NM Political Report on Wednesday evening. “That’s really crappy for an air traffic controller who’s still working and not getting paid.”
Thousands of New Mexicans are either working without pay or have been furloughed. In a YouTube video, McCamley outlined some specifics of the rule change, which could last for 180 days if necessary.
A worker’s rights coalition and New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) settled a year-old lawsuit alleging the state agency failed to adequately investigate or take action on wage theft claims.
The settlement agreement outlines policy and procedural changes the state department will make. Wage theft claims against employers, for example, will now be investigated regardless of the dollar amount involved. The coalition accused DWS of avoiding action on claims worth more than $10,000 and advising employees to instead file a lawsuit against their employer. DWS also agreed to implement a more comprehensive process for workers to file claims against employers who fail to pay minimum wages, especially workers whose first language is not English. Jose “Pancho” Olivas, a named plaintiff in the case, said in a statement, that he and others in his community depend ton DWS to keep employers accountable for fair working conditions.
A judge temporarily halted a New Mexico state agency’s self-imposed limitations on wage theft claims.
In a ruling Tuesday afternoon, Santa Fe District Judge David Thomson ordered that, for now, the state Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) cannot automatically deny complaints of wage theft that total more than $10,000. The state department is also not allowed to automatically turn down claims that happened more than a year before they’re made. “Wage theft” refers to an employer denying payments owed to an employee in any way, which can include paying below minimum wage and refusing to pay overtime, for example. Thomson’s temporary restraining order against the state comes because of a class-action lawsuit filed just two weeks ago by “low income workers” who made wage theft claims against their employers to DWS. Ten individuals named in the lawsuit allege that DWS’ handling of their wage theft claims violate multiple state laws.