In a positive step for workers’ rights, Georgia’s Labor Inspectorate has reversed its decision to conceal employers’ names from its inspection reports, which had effectively protected rights-abusing companies from public scrutiny.
The Labor Inspectorate oversees labor safety and rights in the country, conducts planned and unannounced inspections at workplaces, and documents labor law violations and provides recommendations on how to rectify them. It can warn, fine, or even suspend operations if a business fails to address violations.
Between 2020 and early 2023, the Inspectorate regularly shared the reports – including employers’ details – with the Georgia Fair Labor Platform, a labor rights advocacy coalition, which includes labor unions and civil society organizations. But in April 2023, the Inspectorate abruptly began redacting employers’ identifying details, unjustifiably claiming that this information was “confidential.”
The Georgia Fair Labor Platform had been requesting the reports to upload to its Labor Rights Monitor, a public database that tracks and publishes inspections by the Georgia Labor Inspectorate and provides easy access to the documents. Although Georgia’s labor inspection reports are technically public, the inspectorate does not proactively publish them, so the Monitor fills an important gap, allowing people to search the documents using various parameters, including employer name.
Businesses may have felt uncomfortable with their labor law transgressions being publicly exposed, but transparency is critical, especially given the fledgling nature of Georgia’s labor rights oversight body. It was completely scrapped between 2006 and 2015 and only resumed its full mandate in 2021. During its absence, Georgia’s labor rights landscape deteriorated dramatically: research indicates that unpaid overtime is now rampant, wage theft by employers is common, employees are subjected to abuse, and most salaries fall well short of a living wage.
Against this backdrop, the Fair Labor Platform filed a lawsuit in July challenging the Inspectorate’s new policy. Human Rights Watch also publicly called on the Labor Inspectorate to reverse course irrespective of the outcome of the case.
In late August, the Labor Inspectorate did the right thing and resumed sharing unredacted reports with the Fair Labor Platform. This ensures transparency of its work, which is critical to improving business practices in Georgia and strengthening workers’ rights.