January 18, 2024
State Rep. Adrielle Camuel dedicates first bills to ensuring workers receive all wages they’re due
FRANKFORT – Saying that Kentucky needs to do more to ensure working Kentuckians are paid what they have earned, state Representative Adrielle Camuel announced today that she dedicated her first-ever bills to protecting against two different forms of wages being wrongfully withheld.
“I chose these bills because I believe strongly that working Kentuckians should know they will be paid what they have earned,” the Lexington legislator said. “If enacted, my legislation would go a long way toward providing the peace of mind our workforce deserves.”
Rep. Camuel began her first legislative session on Jan. 2nd, after winning a special election in November to complete the term of the late Lamin Swann. “As legislators, we are tasked with doing all we can to help those we serve,” she said. “I definitely see these bills as vital steps on that journey, and these changes should be easy to make. Frankly, I’m disappointed both haven’t been enacted already.”
Her House Bill 283 would close what in 2019 informally became known as the Blackjewel loophole. Longstanding law calls for coal mining companies to have a performance bond in hand to pay up to four weeks of wages, should the companies declare bankruptcy or otherwise be unable to make payroll. Blackjewel, however, did not have a bond when it ended operations, and a protest by the affected miners drew international attention. Rep. Camuel’s bill would simply require coal companies with five or fewer years of service in Kentucky to verify they have a performance bond in place.
“As someone who grew up in Eastern Kentucky, I understand how hard these miners had to work and how frustrating it had to be for them to fight for not only what they had earned, but deserved,” she said. “I believe the Blackjewel case raised awareness so that we are unlikely to see a repeat of it anytime soon, but I want the law to be clear going forward. The miners from four years ago, and those working for these companies now and in the years ahead, deserve that assurance and respect. I am proud to take up this cause that former state Representative Angie Hatton of Letcher County championed so well.”
Rep. Camuel’s House Bill 284 would prohibit wage theft by employers and would complement a recently adopted federal rule – set to take effect in March – that seeks to stop companies from reducing wages by mis-labeling employees as independent contractors.
“Studies show workers are losing tens of billions of dollars a year because they are not paid what they have earned,” Rep. Camuel said. “I want to make clear that, if they are short-changed here in Kentucky in such areas as overtime, those responsible will be charged with a crime. To me, this is no different than if they had taken the money directly from their employees’ pocket. I believe my approach is fair, and it would certainly cut down on these types of cases.”