Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announces Brian Walsh to lead new Worker Protection Unit
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty today announced the hiring of Brian Walsh to lead a new Worker Protection Unit in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office that will help identify, investigate, and prosecute crimes committed by employers against workers in Hennepin County. Walsh previously served as Director of Labor Standards Enforcement for the City of Minneapolis.
“Workers in Hennepin County deserve to be safe and to be treated fairly by their employers,” Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said. “We will be proactive and we will protect against wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and other forms of worker exploitation, crimes that impact the most vulnerable workers. Brian has been effective and respected while doing this work in Minneapolis. He will now bring his leadership to the entire county.”
“There is an enormous opportunity in Hennepin County to protect working people and combat wage stagnation across entire industries while leveling the playing field for all employers,” Walsh said. “Others are already doing this important work and I can’t wait to join them.”
“Brian Walsh has played an instrumental role in reshaping the strategies for combatting workplace violations,” Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, said. “His work in Minneapolis was innovative and creative and is celebrated at the national level and amongst other cities around the country. Brian has helped to redefine what enforcement means in labor standards, that true enforcement is a partnership with all stakeholders. I look forward to seeing what he is able to do in his new role.”
“I am excited to see Brian step into this new role in Hennepin County,” Alberder Gillespie, director of the city of Minneapolis’ Department of Civil Rights, said. “The impact he has had on advancing and propelling workers' rights forward in the city of Minneapolis is beyond measure. Undoubtedly, he will continue to lead and be a dedicated champion for worker protections in his new position.”
"Workers drive our state’s economy, they support their families, and they keep our communities strong,” Dan McConnell, president of the Minnesota Building and Trades Council, said. “We're pleased to see the Hennepin County Attorney's Office's commitment to protecting workers' safety on the jobsite and ensuring they're paid for the work they do. Having worked with Brian Walsh in his previous role, I am excited to have him continue his work at the county level. On behalf of the 25 affiliated local unions and 14,000 members represented by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, we applaud County Attorney Mary Moriarty formation of this unit and for a top-notch hire. This is a significant step forward for protecting workers in Hennepin County."
“The workers who keep our state moving forward have a right to the wages they earn and to be protected and respected on the job,” Minnesota State Representative Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope) said. “This new unit is an important step forward by County Attorney Moriarty to prevent the exploitation of workers in the county.”
"We appreciate County Attorney Moriarty's continued commitment to strengthening protections for workers, and we are excited to see Mr. Walsh in this new role,” Briana Kemp, policy lead at CTUL, said. “As LSED director, Mr. Walsh played a critical role in building out an effective enforcement mechanism for city labor standards in deep collaboration with community partners. We know he brings this same spirit of collaboration and expertise in proactive enforcement to this new role, and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure all workers are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.”
“We have documented serious violations of the rights of workers ranging from wage theft to labor trafficking,” Madeline Lohman, associate director at The Advocates for Human Rights, said. “We welcome this step towards holding abusive employers accountable and securing justice for vulnerable workers.”
“Brian Walsh has an acute understanding of the threat posed to our economy by low-road employers who are willing to traffic in an exploitable workforce,” Tony McGarvey, from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 and also a Brooklyn Park City Council member, said. “Wage theft, in its various forms, is simply an attempt to increase profits by avoiding standard payroll costs, including Social Security taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation, thrusting those responsibilities onto the rest of us. Brian will work tirelessly to level the playing field for legitimate employers.”
“Brian Walsh is a true partner of working families and leader in the fight to ensure that workers are paid what they are owed for the work they do to support their families and our economy every day,” Brian Elliott, executive director of the SEIU Minnesota State Council and member of the Minneapolis Workplace Advisory Committee, said. “Under his leadership, the Minneapolis Labor Standards Enforcement Division was a model for other cities not just in Minnesota, but around the country, and I know that he will bring that same commitment to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, where he will no doubt build a similarly groundbreaking program, supporting workers who face wage theft and exploitation in a new way to have jobs with dignity.”
“We are very pleased with County Attorney Moriarty’s commitment to leveraging the resources of Minnesota’s largest public law office to promote justice in the jobsite,” Mike Wilde, executive director of the Fair Contracting Foundation of Minnesota, said. “Wage theft is an insidious problem that affects construction workers in our communities every year. FCF enthusiastically supports all efforts to investigate and prosecute this crime.”
“Wage theft is unfortunately still endemic in our community, and often, our most vulnerable neighbors—including new Americans—are the victims,” Veena Iyer, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said. “We are grateful to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for working to ensure that all residents are paid for their hard work.”
About the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office Worker Protection Unit
Crimes against workers by employers impact employees across many industries. According to conservative estimates of recent studies, we can estimate that 12.4% of construction workers alone are victims of payroll fraud and wage theft, or around 3,500 residents of Hennepin County. Those workers are losing over $2 million per year in overtime and premium pay and having nearly $8 million in Social Security and Medicare taxes illegally shifted onto them by construction employers.
A recent study by Rutgers University found that over 32,000 workers are paid, collectively, $90 million less than the legally required minimum wage across the Twin Cities area every year. This study highlighted Walsh’s innovative work at the City of Minneapolis to remedy the problem.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office Worker Protection Unit is the first of its kind in the state and will be empowered to work proactively to protect workers and hold accountable those who break the law. The unit will soon add a full-time investigator to assist in developing these cases. Additionally, multiple attorneys, victim advocates, and other staff from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will support this work. The unit will work in partnership with law enforcement agencies across Hennepin County and is planning a request to the county board for additional resources in the next budget cycle.
About Brian Walsh
As Director of Labor Standards Enforcement in Minneapolis, Walsh helped implement a higher minimum wage, wage theft prevention rules, and paid sick leave protections across the city. His team collected over $1.4 million dollars in previously unpaid wages and damages owed to thousands of workers. His effectiveness and creativity in combating workplace violations is recognized nationwide.
Walsh previously served as a senior investigator and manager within the City of Minneapolis’ Department of Civil Rights prior to his time as Director of Labor Standards Enforcement. Walsh graduated with honors from DePaul University and obtained his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law.