The Lead

Philly officials shine a light on workplace protection laws with grant program

By: - September 6, 2022 10:41 am

The skyline in Center City Philadelphia (Philadelphia Tribune photo)


PHILADELPHIA — A of branch of the city’s Department of Labor is looking to award a windfall of funding to up to 14 community-based organizations in an effort to boost awareness of workplace protection laws across the city.

The Office of Worker Protections (OWP) has announced that it has opened up applications for its Community Education and Outreach Fund, which will offer $16,000 in grants to selected organizations in order to “develop awareness and understanding of worker rights”, according to a news release from the organization.

The application period opened Sept. 1 and will close Sept. 20.

The criteria that will be used by a “multi-stakeholder group” to select the awardees includes:

  • The mission of the organization
  • The organization’s proximity to communities most impacted by workplace protection laws
  • The demographics and income of the community served by the organization
  • The organization’s size and make-up
  • The organization’s history of interaction with the OWP

Once the submission period ends, the stakeholder group will have a week to deliberate and make their recommendations for the winning community organizations.

The 14 awardees will then be publicly announced by the OWP on Sept. 26, after which point the awardees will have until Sept. 30 to sign and return the grant agreements.

The selected organizations will be expected to use the grant funding on worker protection programming such as four sessions of staff training on the city’s labor laws, administering anonymous surveys for community members and staff, using OWP-related communications resources for coordinated outreach and distributing OWP resources at community events.

The OWP has however made the stipulation that the awardees must not use any of the funds awarded to make attempts to “influence legislation or the outcome of any specific election for candidates to public office.”

“We’re proud that Philadelphia has recently enacted strong worker protection laws that are being passed across the country but just passing these laws are not enough. We depend on working people to report violations, which means they need to know about these laws and interact with the office,” Deputy Mayor for Labor Rich Lazer said.

“The ultimate purpose is bigger than just sharing knowledge about Philly’s labor laws. We want to build strong relationships with trusted community-based organizations to be worker protection hubs that not only provide access to our office but also to resources that help people understand what protections impact them at work,” Lazer continued.

In a statement announcing the fund, the OWP specifically highlighted a list of note-worthy workplace protections, such as “COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, Fair Workweek, and Wrongful Discharge from Parking Employment.”

The types of labor law violations that the OWP is looking to prevent include paying employees less than minimum wage, not being offered sick leave, working overtime but not receiving overtime payment, large service, retail or hospitality employers releasing last minute schedules, and employers not offering in-home service providers a contract or other protections.

The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia is hosting the Community Education and Outreach Fund, which was “made possible through the Office of Worker Protections budget and the Operations Transformation Fund,” according to the Department of Labor.

The stated goal of the OWP’s efforts “is to create a standard where labor law compliance and exercising your rights is typical and expected in Philadelphia workplaces.” To this end, the OWP has spent the last few years attempting to “build relationships and trust with communities hit hardest by labor law violations.”

In their most recent Labor Policy and Compliance Report, the Office of Labor Standards and the OWP reported that between January and June of 2022, $149,795 in total finances had been recovered as a result of 11 violations of workplace protection laws. There were 118 complaints filed during this period, with the highest number of complaints relating to the sick leave law.

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