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Audit faults Mo. labor agency employer oversight

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By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri has done a poor job of identifying employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. That's the finding of a new audit released today.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial relations ranked second to last nationwide between 2005 and 2009 when it came to mislabeling employees as contractors. State Auditor Susan Montee says one reason why is the number of auditors employed by Labor dropped dramatically during those four years.

"In 2007 and 2008 they did very (few) audits at all, so anyone out there that was violating the law just was allowed to keep doing it," Montee said.

Employees mislabeled as contractors can miss out on health benefits, while employers can dodge shelling out unemployment and worker compensation claims. Larry Rebman is Director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. He says they've been working to reverse that practice for the past year-and-a-half.

"We came in in 2009, and we immediately addressed the issues reflected in this audit by changing the way we target audits and by increasing the audit staff levels," Rebman said.

Montee has released a list of recommendations. They include a suggestion that lawmakers sponsor legislation that would clearly define employees and independent contractors.

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