Enforcement Matters: Wage Violations, Workers and the Economy

by Secretary Tom Perez on December 4, 2014

If you work hard and play by the rules, then you should be able to earn enough to take care of yourself and your family – that’s a core American value. But for too many people, their hard work isn’t reflected in their paychecks. In many cases, workers aren’t being fully and properly paid for all the hours they put in on the job. The Labor Department recently commissioned a research study on minimum wage violations in two states that demonstrates exactly that. But we are committed to using our enforcement tools to ensure workers get the wages that are rightfully theirs.

Using U.S. Census and earnings data from New York and California, this new study shows that many workers are earning a de facto minimum wage below the legal floor. Unscrupulous employers push their workers into poverty when they fail to pay what the law requires.

In those states, roughly 3 to 6 percent of all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act experience minimum wage violations – translating into a total of between $20 and $29 million in lost weekly income. That represents 40 percent or more of their total pay. Imagine if 40 cents out of every dollar you earned didn’t show up in your paycheck but in your employer’s pocket. For every hour of tough, on-your-feet work looking after children, cleaning homes, making hotel beds, preparing food in a restaurant or picking crops in a field, it’s possible you could be working 24 minutes for free. That’s just wrong.

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(USDOL Study)

RI 6-Agency Task Force Announces Establishment of Anonymous Tip Line for Allegations of Misclassification of Workers as Independent Contractors Instead of as Employees

By WorkersCompensation.com

Providence, RI (WorkersCompensation.com) – A six-agency task force established to protect both workers’ rights and law-abiding businesses that classify their employees properly announced today that it has set up an anonymous telephone tip line for allegations of misclassification.

Staffed by the Rhode Island Division of Taxation, the tip line number is 401-574-8477. Also, the task force is currently building a website to allow people to post tips online.

The chairman of the Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification, DLT Director Charles J. Fogarty, and RI Tax Administrator David M. Sullivan also announced that their agencies have been meeting regularly to share information since the task force came into being in June with the enactment of the Fiscal Year 2015 State Budget. The panel’s purpose is to:

  • coordinate joint efforts to combat fraudulent employment activities;
  • foster voluntary compliance with the law by educating workers and employers;
  • protect the health, safety and benefit rights of workers; and
  • protect law-abiding businesses from being undercut by companies that skirt the law. If warranted, an investigation may be referred to the Office of Attorney General.

 

“One of our major goals is educating, not violating, Rhode Island companies that might unknowingly be misclassifying their workers,” Fogarty said. “At the same time, however, fighting misclassification is an important strategy to promoting shared prosperity in our state

Suffolk DA Spota: “A theft of government funds, pure and simple”

Published: 12/9/2014

 

 

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota today announced the indictment and arraignment of a company president and her two adult children for a pair of separate criminal schemes; the overbilling of Islip town for Superstorm Sandy cleanup, and the submission of false payroll records to hide the firm’s non-compliance with state wage laws.

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(View PDF of News Release)

El Paso City Council: Contractor’s payment on hold due to violations

By Aileen B. Flores / El Paso Times
POSTED:   12/09/2014 10:29:06 PM MST

El Paso City Council on Tuesday took action against companies that allegedly underpaid employees in the construction of Sun Metro’s bus operations and maintenance facility on the East Side.

Council voted unanimously to withhold $35,400 in payment to the contractor, Urban Associates, until an investigation is complete into one of the subcontractors, Beltran Electrical Contractors, Inc. The investigation regards possible violations of prevailing wage rates.

The contractor has 15 days to resolve the issue. If the problem is not resolved between the subcontractor and the workers, then the dispute must be submitted to arbitration, city documents show. Council also approved to report the case to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Urban Associates was awarded a $27.4 million contract in 2012. The company then subcontracted Beltran.

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Bill Filed to Crack Down on Worker Misclassification in Texas Construction Industry

By Scott Braddock on Mon, 12/08/2014 – 12:49pm 

Far too often, construction companies cheat taxpayers and their workers by pretending their employees are independent subcontractors when, by law, they should be paid as employees. It’s a practice known as worker misclassification. Some ethical contractors have called it a “cancer that is eating at the heart of our industry.”

If a person is paid as a subcontractor, that individual is on the hook for payroll taxes and benefits like health insurance. When they’re injured, uninsured workers are often dropped off at county hospitals and the rest of us end up paying more in health costs and local property taxes.

Construction Citizen’s Special Report, “Thrown Away People,” outlined many of the problems presented to society by the degradation of the employer – employee relationship. The McClatchy Newspaper chain this year followed up with a powerful series called “Contract to Cheat,” which took another in-depth look at the problem.

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Klein details ‘New Deal’ plan for windfall funds

By Josefa Velasquez
5:47 p.m. | Dec. 8, 2014

ALBANY-State Senator Jeff Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Conference, has proposed a two-pronged program to use the state’s $5 billion windfall from bank settlements for a modern-day version of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Klein’s “New Deal for New York” would use part of the bank settlement money to create a new program called Empire Public Works, dedicated to upgrading the state’s infrastructure.

In an interview with Capital, Klein said the infrastructure projects in the program would be required to pay prevailing wages, which would apply to agencies like the M.T.A., housing authorities, and bridge and tunnel authorities, which don’t always pay prevailing wages.

“It’s money that I believe was stolen from the taxpayers from financial institutions accused of financial crimes against New Yorkers,” he said in a phone interview, adding, “It certainly makes sense that this infusion of cash go right back in to the pockets of hardworking New Yorkers.”

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Clay company ordered to pay $380,000 in back wages to 300 workers

By Rick Moriarty
on December 04, 2014 at 12:41 PM, updated December 04, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Syracuse, N.Y. – A Syracuse area contractor has been ordered to pay $380,000 in back wages to more than 300 drywall installers that federal officials said were misclassified as independent contractors.

The U.S. Department of Labor sued General Interior Systems Inc., of Clay, in U.S. District Court in Syracuse in 2008, alleging the company misclassified employees to avoid paying overtime and other benefits.

GIS and its owner and president, Jeffrey Mento, admitted to the misclassification and agreed to pay back wages in a settlement with the DOL in August last year.

DOL spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said the department was making the settlement public now to highlight the issue of misclassification and to seek the public’s help in finding the employees who are owed the back wages. Some of the 300 workers have moved and left no forwarding address, he said.

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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND D.O.I. COMMISSIONER PETERS ANNOUNCE ARRESTS OF NYC SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AND HOUSING AUTHORITY CONTRACTORS AND LABOR BROKERS

Contractors Allegedly Paid Workers Below Prevailing Wage, Labor Brokers Demanded Kickbacks On NYC School And Housing Construction Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: DECEMBER 4, 2014

(New York, NY) Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters announced today the arrests and indictments of a contractor and two labor brokers overseeing New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) and Housing Authority (NYCHA) projects for allegedly underpaying construction workers. The arrests stem from a joint investigation into underpayment and kickback schemes on projects at P.S. 196K, a public school in Brooklyn, and the Pomonok Houses Project in Queens. As alleged in two indictments, several workers were deprived of several thousand dollars each from the alleged schemes. If convicted on the top counts, each defendant faces up to seven years in prison.

“Contractors who work on public projects cannot ignore New York State’s labor laws in order to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “In this case and many others, my office is taking aggressive action, including criminal prosecution when appropriate, to ensure that workers are paid the wages they’ve earned.”

“Not only does prevailing wage fraud deprive honest workers of fair pay, but it is a gateway to other schemes that endanger public safety. Exposing and putting an end to prevailing wage fraud is a cornerstone of DOI’s multi-pronged effort to combat corruption in New York City construction. I thank the Attorney General and his staff for their partnership on these important cases,” New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters said.

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Watco Terminal & Port Services to pay 261 North Dakota workers more than $300K in back wages following US Labor Department investigation

U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Release Number: 14-2069-CHI
Date: December 2, 2014

MINOT, N.D. — An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that load operators at three Watco Terminal & Port Services’ locations in Belfield, Stanley and Tioga were not paid for pre-shift work, as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Watco will pay 261 workers a total of $304,094 in overtime back wages.

“People must be compensated for all time on the job, including before and after a shift,” said Charles Frasier, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Denver. “We hope other local employers take note of this case and ensure they are paying their workers properly.”

The investigation found that employees were not compensated for required attendance at pre-shift safety and turnover meetings. Another overtime violation occurred when Watco failed to compute overtime properly. The company also failed to maintain accurate records of all hours worked.

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Workers will get backpay for Windsor school construction

By Ryan Murphy
November 25, 2014, 9:43 PM | ISLE OF WIGHT

Isle of Wight County Schools will pay backpay for hundreds of workers on a school construction job in Windsor who were shorted after the school system failed to include federal wage requirements in contract documents.

The move comes seven months after a Daily Press investigation revealed that the school system had appeared to violate federal law by failing to include the pay rate clauses. The school system used $7.5 million in federally subsidized bonds for the job, which came with strings attached, including paying workers on a pay scale based on local prevailing wages.

The Labor Department opened an investigation into the issue in May. A department spokeswoman said Wednesday that the investigation was still open.
The Isle of Wight School Board approved an order at Monday’s work session to take steps to comply with the federal law, called the Davis-Bacon Act, and to compensate construction workers for the difference between what they were paid and what federal law said they should have been paid.

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