Shapiro nominates Acting Attorney General for AG

Pennsylvania’s Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry has been nominated by Gov. Josh Shapiro to serve as Attorney General. 

Henry’s nomination has been sent to the Senate for advice and consent. 

A longtime public servant and prosecutor, Henry served as First Deputy under Shapiro in his previous role as Attorney General. 

Henry called the work Shapiro did in the Office of Attorney General the “gold standard” in restoring institutional integrity. She said Pennsylvanians should expect the Office of Attorney General to “stay strong, be bold, and continue to do groundbreaking work” on behalf of the state’s citizens. 

“Public service is what drives the dedicated employees of this office to work hard and stand up for the kids, consumers, and victims of crime when they need a fighter on their side,” Henry said in a statement. “As Attorney General, I will be dedicated to making sure this work continues nonstop and that this office will always have Pennsylvanian’s backs.” 

Shapiro said Henry’s decades-long experience as a prosecutor and in public service will serve her well as AG. 

“I have complete confidence in her ability to represent the Commonwealth,” said Shapiro, “and I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure the people of Pennsylvania can be safe and feel safe in their communities.” 

Henry’s experience includes 26 years as a prosecutor. She has risen from intern in the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office to Pennsylvania’s chief law enforcement officer. 

As First Deputy Attorney General, Henry was responsible for overseeing the Office’s legal matters. Included in this is criminal cases seeking justice for victims, civil suits representing the state, and public protection cases fighting for the rights of consumers. 

Prior to serving as First Deputy Attorney General, Henry spent 20 years in the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office. Her responsibilities included Chief of Major Crimes, Chief of Child Abuse, and First Assistant. In 2008, she was appointed Bucks County District Attorney with a bipartisan vote. 

In 2017, Henry received Widener University Commonwealth Law School’s Excellence in Public Service Alumni Award for “extraordinary contributions” to public service. 

Pa. AG Shapiro announces industry-changing settlement with CarMax

An ‘industry-changing’ $1 million settlement with CarMax Auto Superstores, Inc. was announced Thursday by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The settlement requires CarMax to disclose open recalls related to the safety of its used vehicles prior to consumers’ purchase. 

The settlement establishes that used car dealers generally disclose open safety recalls to consumers prior to purchase. It is the result of a multistate investigation launched alongside 35 other Attorneys General. 

Shapiro said in the statement that as demand for used cars remains high in Pennsylvania, consumers deserve to have relevant information about a vehicle to make an informed decision to buy, particularly if there are open and unrepaired recalls. 

“This settlement will ensure dealerships like CarMax shift gears to ensure Pennsylvanians’ safety comes before profits,” said Shapiro. 

CarMax will continue to use the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) vehicle identification number tool to provide customers with important safety information. CarMax will use hyperlinks for vehicles advertised online and QR codes for vehicles on the lot that link directly to any open recalls on the vehicle so consumers can access data as they shop. 

In addition, CarMax will present consumers with copies of open recalls and obtain the consumer’s signature on that standalone disclosure document before presenting any other sales paperwork. Additionally, CarMax agrees to no longer represent vehicles as “safe.”

State College contractor accused of stealing thousands from employees

A State College-based contractor was charged with four counts of theft in one of the largest prevailing wage criminal cases on record, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on Thursday.

Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., one of the largest contractors to complete projects for the state, was charged with four counts of theft relating to violations of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the Federal Davis-Bacon Act after allegedly stealing its workers’ retirement, health and welfare money.

The alleged theft resulted in Hawbaker’s workers losing millions of dollars from their retirement, which the company used to lower its costs and increase profits, Shapiro’s office wrote in a press release.

“This is the third in a series of prosecutions related to wage theft and misclassification over the last few months – and it isn’t the last,” said Shapiro. “Too often, the workers that get stolen from are underpaid, have been denied benefits, and have been put into dangerous situations without appropriate training. My office is committed, with our partners in law enforcement, to keep fighting until workers are treated right.”

The charges come after a three-year investigation into the company’s practices. According to investigators, Hawbaker took wages from its workers by using money for prevailing wage workers’ retirement funds to contribute to retirement accounts of all of its workers, including its top brass.

Hawbaker also allegedly took funds intended for prevailing wage workers’ health and welfare benefits, to subsidize the cost of its self-funded health insurance plan.

Investigators said the company disguised the theft for decades by inflating its records of benefit spending.

The charges however, only account for the last five years due to the statute of limitations.

State AGs ask FDA to drop ban that blocks gay men from giving blood

A letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, signed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and 19 other state attorneys general, asks the agency to lift its ban preventing gay and bi-sexual men from giving blood.

The request comes at a time when the nation’s blood supply is low, due to the pandemic.

The FDA currently recommends that men who have had sex with another man in the past three months not donate blood. The guidance was recently reduced from a 12-month waiting period earlier this month.

The letter asks the FDA to remove the waiting period altogether and enact a risk-based rule rather than one based on gender or sexual activity. Not doing so, the letter says, prevents a group of healthy individuals from donating blood at a time it is badly needed.

“It is time to end this dated, discriminatory practice, especially during an emergency when all Pennsylvanians want to play a part in keeping people in their communities safe and healthy,” said Shapiro. “Restrictions for blood donations should be based on fact-based risk factors, not discredited, homophobic presumptions about someone’s life.”

The FDA’s guidance originated in 1983 as a rule that banned gay or bisexual men from donating blood. The rule was changed to a 12-month waiting period in 2015.

Earlier this month, the American Red Cross announced that it has a critical blood shortage because of the decrease in drives and donations, noting that it only had a five-day supply of blood on hand.

Country wide cancellations of blood drives and donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly affected the nation’s supply of red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Pa. Attorney General fights changes to overtime calculation for workers

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Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro is opposing a proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor that would change the method employers use to calculate overtime.

Shapiro and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a letter to the Department of Labor on Dec. 6, arguing that the department’s proposed expansion of the application of the fluctuating workweek method compromises worker safety, reduces workers’ compensation for overtime work, and makes it more difficult for employers to comply with fair labor laws.

“The proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor we are fighting today would, if approved, be another benefit to companies at the expense of workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country,” said Shapiro. “It would also violate labor laws…”

Under the fluctuating workweek rule, employers can agree to pay a limited class of employees, whose hours fluctuate from week to week, a fixed salary for all hours worked.

Thus, rather than receiving an hourly wage, those employees’ regular rate of pay is calculated by dividing the employee’s fixed salary by their total hours worked. Employers then pay those employees an additional half of their regular rate for each overtime hour worked, instead of the standard “time and a half.”

The attorney general argues that the DOL’s proposed rule undermines the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was enacted in 1938 and ensures that employees are fairly compensated for working more than 40 hours per week.

Other attorney generals participating in this letter are from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Check out more Workforce stories at LVB.com.

Berks County construction company owner pleads guilty to falsifying drinking water reports

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced that the owner of a Berks County construction company has pleaded guilty to falsifying lab reports for water samples.

Matthew Barrasso, 43, of Mohnton, the owner of Barrasso Excavation in Oley Township, was arrested and charged in June with falsifying lab reports following the installation of new water mains in Berks County.

Barrasso plead guilty to tampering with public records, violating the Safe Drinking Water Act for forgery, and unsworn falsification. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $12,500 fine.

The tampering came to light when an investigation found that he changed lab results to indicate that samples from a water main in Wyomissing were negative for total coliform and E. coli. He also engaged in similar conduct in Quarryville, Lancaster County.

“The defendant put the health and wellbeing of the people of Berks and Lancaster counties at risk by falsely reporting the absence of harmful bacteria in their drinking water,” Shapiro said. “Thanks to the hard work of our environmental crimes section, we put an end to his dangerous behavior.”