Tag Archives: featured

Reporting on wage theft prompts law changes

On April 13, 2017 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1021, which opened up wage theft violations and enforcement actions to the public. The information had previously been classified as a “trade secret” under an outdated law. The idea for the bill came from a story I did two years earlier for Rocky Mountain PBS News showing how the opaque law shielded unlawful employers from public view.

Full coverage from the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

Colorado Losing Millions to Worker Misclassification

In these two stories I analyzed data on random audits conducted by the Division of Unemployment Insurance of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and used statistical methods to estimate the rate of misclassification and unpaid premiums to the state as a whole. The results were validated by two statisticians who are officers of the Colorado-Wyoming chapter of the American Statistical Association.

I found Colorado state lost an estimated $114 million to $124 million since 2011 and the rate of misclassified workers has more than doubled, from at least 6 percent of the work force to at least 13 percent, according to the analysis. The average amount of unpaid premiums has also nearly doubled from at least $69 to $124 per employee annually.

Taxpayers miss out on millions of dollars in unemployment payments

Denver luxury condo spurs claims of worker abuse

Pay Snubs: Wage Theft in Colorado

Following an inquiry by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, the president of Bradley Petroleum Buzz Calkins discovered the final paycheck for Ward Boydstun for $447. In 2012, Boydstun was arrested at a Bradley Petroleum gas station that he managed and was accused of taking $4,534, but police found no evidence of the theft and dropped the case.(Joe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain PBS I-News)
Following an inquiry by Rocky Mountain PBS News, the president of Bradley Petroleum, Buzz Calkins discovered the final paycheck for Ward Boydstun for $447. In 2012, Boydstun was arrested at a Bradley Petroleum gas station that he managed and was accused of taking $4,534, but police found no evidence of the theft and dropped the case. (Joe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain PBS News)

If you work, what happens if you don’t get paid? That’s the situation for countless workers across Colorado and the United States.

During my time at Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, I researched and wrote about enforcement of state and federal wage and hour laws in Colorado. It’s an important issue and happens probably more often, and in more industries, than you think.

This series led to proposed legislation in 2016 to improve transparency of Colorado wage law violations and a state investigation into three construction contractors. It also helped recover lost wages for two gas station workers. The stories became required reading in a University of Denver class.

Here are the stories in print, with accompanying audio versions:

 

Delinquent mines series wins 2014 IRE award

awardslogo_slim

I’m very honored to be among the 2014 IRE award winners with my colleagues from NPR.

“Judges’ comments: “Delinquent Mines” used innovative data analysis to find that 2,700 American coal and mineral mining companies had failed to pay nearly $70 million in delinquent mine safety penalties for years or even decades. These mining companies operated more than 4,000 mines and while they were delinquent, committed 131,000 violations, exposing a loophole in federal regulation and enforcement that places miners at risk. The collaboration found human stories to illustrate the data, from anguished families whose relatives were killed in mining accidents to one billionaire owner whose mines had large unpaid fines. The stories led the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to cite a major delinquent mining company for failure to pay its fines and then shut down the mine when the operator failed to meet a deadline for payment. The agency also said it was considering an “early warning system” for delinquent mines so that it could begin court action against them sooner.”

 

First-place winner of KCRW’s 24-hour Radio Race

“Karan Ireland thought she was well-informed, until she discovered a strange smell that changed her life.”

After a mad dash to find Karan and an all-nighter in an iHop, I was extremely honored to win the second annual Radio Race from KCRW’s Independent Producer Project with my story, “You should know what’s right next door.”

What’s this Radio Race you speak of? From the producers:

140 teams from all around the world took up our challenge to produce an artful and compelling 4-minute audio piece in one mad-dash, energy-drink-swigging 24 hour period. The result was an explosion of creative radio storytelling. Our KCRW judges narrowed down the pieces to a final 10. Then the final 3 were chosen by our esteemed panel of celebrity judges: Alix Spiegel of NPR, radio educator Rob Rosenthal, producer of the How Sound podcast, and Eleanor McDowall producer of the Short Cuts  podcast from BBC Radio 4.

Listen to the full UnFictional show here.

All Things Considered airs “Why Music Matters”

This segment was perhaps my favorite segment EVER On NPR, and that from a very long time listener. Big words, but I’m saying them. Bravo NPR. Truly spectacular segment.

— NPR.org commenter “William K” on the story, “Finding Hope, With The Cranberries’ Help”

I was honored that Weekend’s on All Things Considered picked up the series I produced for KEXP, and even surprised one interviewee with a phone call from his favorite artists. Find the stories at NPR.org.