US Labor Department recovers nearly $3M in back wages for workers on federally funded construction projects in New York City

Larino Masonry Inc. and owners debarred from bidding on federal contracts 

U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division
Release Number: 14-2057-NEW, Date: Nov. 25, 2014

NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of Labor has secured $2,904,000 in back wages for laborers and mechanics who worked on federally funded construction projects in four New York City boroughs.

A federal administrative law judge approved a settlement requiring Larino Masonry Inc., based in Newark, New Jersey, to pay $1,945,000 in back wages to workers at projects in Manhattan and the Bronx for violating the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act. In a separate, but related case, Larino also agreed to an order to pay $959,000 to workers at projects in Brooklyn and Queens.

Larino admitted that it failed to pay its workers the legally required prevailing wage, fringe benefits and overtime, and submitted falsified certified payrolls to a contracting agency. In addition to paying back wages, Larino and its company president Juan Luis Larino and vice president Maria Larino have been barred from bidding on federal contracts for the next three years.

“Taxpayers should expect that federal contractors understand their obligations and comply with the law,” said Maria Rosado, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s New York City District Office, which investigated the federally funded projects. “When Larino Masonry or any other employer violates labor laws, they cheat their employees and gain an unfair advantage over employers who obey the law. We will hold them accountable.”

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Construction boss convicted of not paying fair

1:23 PM, NOVEMBER 20, 2014 

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the conviction and sentencing of Leonid Fridman for failing to pay legally required wages to his workers on a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey construction project.

Fridman pled guilty to the felony crimes of grand larceny in the second degree and violation of prevailing wage requirements of New York State Labor Law.  As a condition of the plea, Fridman agreed to pay $200,000 in restitution to underpaid workers and prohibition from working on public works projects for five years.  Fridman was sentenced to five years of probation.

“Mr. Fridman is being held accountable for stealing wages from workers who renovated parts of JFK,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to take strong action, including filing criminal charges, against employers who violate New York’s labor laws, steal taxpayer dollars and violate the public trust.”

Based upon court filings and statements in court, Fridman, 60, owned and operated Millennium Commercial Corp., a Brooklyn-based company that performed tile work.

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Labor Department Sharpening Focus on Misclassification

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
By K. W. Mitchell

In combating employee misclassification, the Labor Department is taking strategic misclassification enforcement to the next level by placing greater priority on measures that are tactical and swift, a department official said.

“To carry out our job, we must be prudent and strategic in our enforcement actions,” said David Weil, administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.

“We need to create ripple effects that impact compliance far beyond the workplaces where we physically conduct investigations, or the organizations to which we provide outreach directly,” Weil said Oct. 31 in a blog post.

Additionally, the division needs to be persistent in discovering ways to “make our investigation of one employer resonate throughout that particular sector and influence the behaviors of employers across that entire industry, to promote compliance across networks of business organizations,” Weil said.

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Feds join N.H. worker misclassification efforts

BY BOB SANDERS
Published: November 17, 2014

The federal government is getting involved in helping New Hampshire in its enforcement efforts against misclassification of independent contractors, especially when it relates to workers’ compensation.

New Hampshire last week became the 15th state to join the federal Labor Department’s misclassification initiative; Massachusetts followed suit on Monday.

“Misclassification of workers steals benefits and protections from employees and allows unfair advantages to businesses that do it,” said New Hampshire Labor Commissioner James W. Craig. “This agreement will help us grow our state and regional economy by leveling the playing field for honest and law-abiding employers.”

New Hampshire has grappled with the murky world of independent contractor classification for decades. Definitions change depending on the law involved, and enforcement is uneven.

The state Department of Employment Security, for instance, has found misclassification in nearly a quarter of the audits it conducts. But the state Department of Labor only has fined a fraction of those fined by the Employment Security and has drastically reduced most of the fines imposed.

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New Misclassification Study Shows Impact in California

By Jim Kollaer on Wed, 10/15/2014 – 10:30am 

In a September 2014 study entitled Sinking Underground: The Growing Informal Economy in California Construction, misclassification of more than 39,800 construction workers is a key reason that the underground economy in construction is contributing to the low wages, difficulty in recruiting qualified craft workers and loss of wages and taxes in the State of California.

According to the study, released by the Economic Roundtable, a non profit research organization based in Los Angeles, in 2011 more than 143,900 construction jobs in the state were “informal” – code for off the books, misclassified as independent contractors or unreported by employers.

The study looked at wages and construction jobs from 1972 to 2012 and found that the number of construction workers that were unreported or misclassified increased by 400% during that period.

The study cites that, “Specialty trades, such as drywall, have the highest level of informality with over 25% employed informally in 2012.  Building Construction was next, with 20% estimated to be informal.”The major impact on the industry is that those construction companies in California who are “doing it right” have costs that are 30% higher that the “off the books and misclass” contractors.  Imagine what that disparity does to the bidding process.  The report cites several personal stories to illustrate its points.

ICR seeks $3.62 million from VVWRA

SHEA JOHNSON – STAFF WRITER 
Posted Nov. 13, 2014 @ 6:42 pm 

VICTORVILLE – The staffing agency co-owned by San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood sought $3.62 million in damages from Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority this year, according to a claim obtained Thursday by the Daily Press.

In the claim dated Aug. 22, ICR Staffing Services alleged that VVWRA failed to pay prevailing wage to ICR’s contract workers between 2011 and 2013 and solicited ICR’s temporary employees to jump ship to a competing staffing agency. The claim was served Sept. 11.

“We obviously had a discussion with the claimants prior to the filing of the claim and responded,” VVWRA General Manager Logan Olds said Thursday. “The board took a look at it and the direction was to deny the claim.”

In a numbered format, the claim lists a series of alleged wrong-doings by VVWRA, which had utilized ICR workers between 2011 and 2013 for the Upper Narrows Pipeline project, but in May chose lower-bidding Hesperia-based iLink Business Management for future contract services.

In 2011, a two-year contract services agreement provided ICR employees a gross figure of roughly $260,000 per year. But since the project was subject to reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the contract should have been let as prevailing wage and “generated a gross annual billing in excess of $1.5 million,” the claim states.

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L.A. City Attorney sues city contractors over alleged wage theft

POSTED BY JOHN SCHREIBER ON 
NOVEMBER 13, 2014 

City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing city contractors involved in building a South Los Angeles animal care facility of shorting about 50 employees out of a quarter-million dollars in wages and attempting to hide their tracks.

The $9.6 million construction contract for the 68,000-square-foot South Los Angeles Animal Care Center project near Western Avenue and 60th Street was awarded in 2009 to Mackone Development Inc., which then delegated some of the work to five subcontractors.

The lawsuit seeks to have Mackone and its subcontractors pay their employees what they are allegedly owed, and also pursues penalties of $2,500 for each violation. City attorneys also want to bar the companies from seeking future city contracts.

“Stealing wages from hardworking men and women is reprehensible and it must end,” Feuer said. “No one – especially city contractors paid with taxpayer dollars – should fail to pay workers what they are rightly owed.”

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Wage Theft – How companies steal from our employees and communities

ARTICLE |  | BY CAMILLA MORTENSEN

 

Ben Basom of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters gives the example of a worker who came forward and started talking to the union about the Portland company that he was working for and the scams he was seeing. Basom says the employee’s boss found out “and the next time we saw him, his arm was in a cast and he was all bruised up.”

The worker said, “This guy knows where my family is in Mexico.”

From July 2012 to June 2013, Oregon workers filed claims for more than $3 million in unpaid wages with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Juan Carlos Ordonez of the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), which analyzed BOLI’s data on the claims, says that’s “just the tip of the iceberg” because workers fear retaliation if they complain about their missing wages, or they simply don’t know how or where to file a complaint. BOLI is the agency that investigates and enforces Oregon’s labor laws.

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US Labor Department signs agreement with New Hampshire Department of Labor to reduce misclassification of employees

WHD News Release: [11/12/2014]

WASHINGTON – Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and the New Hampshire Department of Labor  has signed a memorandum of understanding with the goal of protecting the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as something other than employees, such as independent contractors or other nonemployee statuses.

Under this agreement, both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement. The memorandum of understanding represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. The New Hampshire Department of Labor is the latest state agency to partner with the Labor Department.

“Misclassification of employees deprives workers of rightfully-earned wages and workplace protections and undercuts law-abiding businesses,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Which is why combating misclassification is one of several important strategies to promote shared prosperity to help ensure that our economy works for everyone.”

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Metro Brief: Norton hopes to reward fair labor practices with new bill

On November 10, 2014

 

When Congress reconvenes, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that she will introduce a bill that directs federal agencies to give preferential points to federal government vendors and contractors based on their labor practices.

Points would be given to vendors and contractors that pay their employees a living wage with benefits without passing on additional costs to the federal government, as well as for permitting workers to unionize. According to Norton, these points will help level the playing field and encourage private contractors and concessionaires to treat their workforce with the dignity they deserve.

“The federal government, through contracts, funds approximately two million jobs that pay less than a livable wage,” said Norton. “The federal contracting system should not be contributing to growing income inequality. My bill will not only afford federal government contract workers a decent wage, but the federal government would see significant savings in benefits, such as food stamps it now offers to supplement the income of these low-wage workers.”

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