Businesses have been treating their workers as independent contractors and shorting them much needed pay, benefits and job security for years. Now, Michigan is doing something about it.

Efforts of Attorney General Dana Nessel and some state lawmakers resulted in the creation of a new unit intended to tackle the issue. The unit will focus on the misclassification of workers as contractors by companies trying to avoid paying overtime, health benefits or worker’s compensation.

There is a lot at stake, not just for affected workers, but for the state as well. The Economic Policy Institute found businesses bilked some 2.8 million Michigan workers of $429 million in wages and overtime pay from 2013 to 2015. Meanwhile, a Michigan State University report found the state is shortchanged $107 million a year in tax revenue by companies not properly classifying their workers and paying them off the books, and not contributing to the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

To fight that, Nessel's new Payroll Fraud Enforcement Unit will probe payroll fraud and misclassification claims, joining with other state agencies where necessary to take action using existing law to crack down on illegal practices to assist hardworking Michiganians.