Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement: CIWO & NJ DOL Collaboration

CIWO “Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement Program” (SLSE) works to address the challenge in labor standards enforcement by building relationships with state and local departments of labor, creating resources to strengthen their strategic outreach and enforcement practices, and supporting effective and dynamic sector-based collaboration between agencies and civil society organizations with the greatest stake in robust labor standards enforcement.

“Strategic Enforcement” enables agencies to be more rigorously selective about where and how they use resources. Agencies prioritize and direct efforts to where the problems are largest, where workers are least likely to exercise their legal rights, and where the agency can impact industry-wide compliance. It is about using limited resources in a manner that furthers the agency’s mission of promoting compliance with labor standards. “Strategic Enforcement” recasts the purpose of regulation as a mechanism to intervene in labor market inequality at the systemic level rather than on a case-by-case individualized basis.

Collaboration with community partners in a system of co-enforcement is critical to the success of "Strategic Enforcement" because workers know things about day to day employer practices on the ground that government can’t know, and worker organizations have the trusting relationships that can facilitate workers coming forward with this knowledge.  Working with community partners, agencies can: gain a better feel for industry norms and practices; develop better industry-specific enforcement strategies; conduct effective outreach and education; identify high impact cases and increase compliance; level the playing field for employers who are doing the right thing; and more effectively recover unpaid wages.

CIWO’s strategic and co-enforcement model has been most fully developed in California where industry teams of agency staff and representatives of worker centers, industry watchdogs, unions, civil rights and legal services organizations are working closely together to target low wage industry sectors with high violation rates. These teams have been extremely successful in targeting some of the most egregious violators in such industries as agriculture, janitorial, residential care, restaurants, construction, car wash, and warehouses. Now, CIWO has been asked by the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJ DOL) to help them implement this co-enforcement model in New Jersey.


CIWO’s Collaboration with the State of New Jersey’s Department of Labor

The NJ DOL has participated in CIWO’s SLSE trainings and seminars in the past few years and the agency leadership recently contracted with us to help it implement a comprehensive strategic enforcement framework and adoption of the co-enforcement model across all units in the agency (including all Wage and Hour divisions, Unemployment, Workforce Development, Workers Compensation, Public Safety and Occupational Safety and Health, Employer Accounts and the Attorney General’s office).  New Jersey is poised to become the second state in the country to comprehensively reinvent its labor standards enforcement practices. Given the favorable political climate, progressive governor, significant resources, and the NJ DOL leadership’s ability and willingness to adopt bold new initiatives, this is a unique opportunity to concretely improve the lives of hundreds of thousands in New Jersey.

Through this formal collaboration CIWO will help the NJ DOL evolve their enforcement and co-enforcement models, train their staff, coordinate partnerships with community groups, and share best practices and lessons learned as everyone moves through and implements these changes. This collaborative effort will include the following elements:

  • The planning and facilitation of NJ DOL’s all-staff retreats and division trainings in spring and summer of 2020;
  • Ongoing preparation, review and feedback on the agency’s training curriculum for new staff;
  • Hands on technical assistance to managers and staff on revising different administrative and enforcement processes;
  • Analysis and support on enforcement issues and problems within different divisions within the agency;
  • Support in the development of a strategic co-enforcement partnership and shared infrastructure between NJ DOL, the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition and key community and worker center members, the NJ affiliates of the National Domestic Workers Alliance which CIWO has also trained in strategic co-enforcement practices; NJ Legal Services and other non-profit legal clinics and local unions in key sectors
  • Funding (re-granting) and additional training to community partners for their engagement in co-enforcement work, including outreach, education and training, identifying violations, helping to prepare cases, and assisting with investigations.
  • Ongoing support as the agency and partners implement strategic enforcement.


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 training on utilizing the Strategic Enforcement paradigm. 




Trainers Patricia Smith (NELP) and Jenn Round (CIWO)


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