Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement

Over the last decade, cities, counties, and states across the US have enacted innovative economic policies, but the challenge is enforcement. State and local agencies that are charged with labor law enforcement have an enormously important job to do. CIWO is working to address this challenge by facilitating a dynamic learning community among state and local departments of labor. Through webinars and community conversations, agencies are learning to share innovative approaches to intake, complaint and triage, investigations, improving collection rates, settlement agreement content and negotiation, joint employer liability and multi-jurisdictional cooperation, protecting vulnerable workers from retaliation, strategic enforcement and co-enforcement. Our webinars and communities of practice are developed in partnership with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Labor Standards Enforcement Series

To capture and expand on the information shared in the webinars, CIWO and CLASP created a Labor Standards Enforcement Series. Briefs in the series correspond to the webinars and provide examples of strategies used by various agencies to maximize their effectiveness, including how to successfully leverage partnerships between agencies, community-based organizations, and the private bar, as well as insights for advocates seeking to improve the legislative tools available to enforce laws. 

Labor Standards Enforcement ToolkitLabor Standards Enforcement Toolbox

Latest News

SECLAP 2021:   CIWO has launched a new yearlong Strategic Enforcement Community of Learning and Practice (SECLAP) with state and local agencies from across the country. SECLAP will have its first session on January 27th.

Maintaining effective U.S. labor standards enforcement through the coronavirus recession
In partnership with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, CIWO researchers have released a study that examines the relationship between unemployment levels and minimum wage violation rates during the Great Recession of 2007—2009 to better understand what policies are needed to protect workers’ rights during the coronavirus recession. Minimum wage violations increased dramatically during the Great Recession, disproportionately impacting Latinx, Black, and female workers. Given these findings, we anticipate the coronavirus recession will result in increased violations, yet as high unemployment adds to workers’ desperation to maintain any job, the likelihood that low-wage workers will file complaints with an enforcement agency will decrease. Because the predominant U.S. labor market enforcement model relies on individual complaints to trigger an investigation, workers most impacted by the coronavirus recession are at risk of being overlooked by regulators unless agencies embrace a different enforcement framework. This report describes the main elements of a more proactive strategic enforcement and co-enforcement approach, and details how federal labor enforcement standards can be reformed to meet the challenges of a changing U.S. labor market hit hard by the coronavirus recession. Access the report here.

  • CIWO co-hosted a webinar on 9/30 with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth - Enforcing Labor Standards in a Recession: An Opportunity to Support Workers Who Risk Their Lives to present and discuss the results of the study. CIWO Fellow Dr. Daniel Galvin (Associate Professor of Political Science, Northwestern), Dr. Michelle Holder (Assistant Professor of Economics at City University of New York) -- whose research focuses on the black community and women of color in the American labor market, including the impact of the Great Recession -- and David Weil (Dean and Professor of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and former Wage and Hour Administrator at USDOL), drew on years of experience to discuss how enforcement can disrupt this trend.

A Roadmap for Strategic Enforcement: Complaints and Compliance with San Francisco’s Minimum Wage
A new CIWO study
examines San Francisco’s minimum wage enforcement to determine the degree to which complaints in a given industry match overall industry compliance. Specifically, the study analyzes the relationship between minimum wage complaints filed with the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) and estimates of underlying minimum wage violations, using data from the U.S. government’s monthly survey of labor force participation (called CPS-MORG survey data). The findings indicate that the complaint-based model is inadequate for many San Francisco workers who are most vulnerable to minimum wage violations. Read more and access the study documents here.


An Advocate’s Guide to Building Stronger Labor Standards Enforcement

An Advocate’s Guide to Building Stronger Labor Standards Enforcement is CIWO's new series aimed at providing worker advocates and policy organizations with strategies for leveraging labor standards enforcement to ensure hard-fought worker protections are realized.

  • Building Block 1: Essential Labor Standards Enforcement Powers
    This brief is a guide for advocates and policy organizations on essential statutory powers administrative agencies need to robustly enforce labor standards laws. Using real life examples that contrast strong and inadequate statutory language, this paper describes how legal provisions or omissions can restrict or bolster fundamental enforcement powers. It also provides model language that can be used in drafting new labor standards laws and amendments to existing labor standards legislation. Download the brief


  • Strategic Enforcement Regional Training #3 (West) - Portland, OR - January 15-16, 2020
    • This training brought together over 40 participants from 7 states to learn from facilitators & each other about how to scale up strategic enforcement efforts in their locality using the Labor Standards Toolbox framework.
  • Strategic Enforcement Regional Training #2 (Southeast) - Raleigh, NC - March 7-8, 2019
  • Strategic Enforcement Regional Training #1 (Northeast) - New Brunswick, NJ - February 12-13, 2019


  • Strategic Enforcement Kick-off Training for Managers - February 25-26, 2020.  Earlier this year, 70 managers at the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJ DOL) participated in a two-day Strategic Enforcement Training. This Kick-off Training is part of a larger ongoing partnership between CIWO and NJ DOL to scale up strategic enforcement in New Jersey. Read more here.


In partnership with CLASP, Janice Fine organized 5 webinars in 2017, that recruited participants from LA City and County, Santa Monica, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego agencies to participate in. On average each webinar included 100-120 participants from across the country.

Past Events