This story is part of the series called “Contract to Cheat” published by McClatchy DC. The series tracks how several states fail to prevent construction companies doing public projects from misclassifying their workers as independent contractors 2014 a practice that cheats taxpayers out of billions of dollars each year and denies workers protections.
On an overcast July afternoon, with the clock ticking on their lunch break, men in blue jeans and hard hats filed out of the four-story Fairfield Inn & Suites under construction near Interstate 270.
Jon Gould, a Carpenters Union job site investigator, stood in the parking lot of a nearby filling station and gazed at the half-finished motel. Three months earlier, on a hunch, investigators from Gould’s union had started videotaping the people building the motel.
The surveillance was taking place to answer a big question: Was Road Runner Construction, of Little Rock, Ark., the motel framing contractor, trying to get away with a practice known as misclassification? Repeated countless times nationwide, often with impunity, the practice enables dishonest companies to underbid honest competitors by categorizing employees as independent contractors-thereby dodging laws that require the payment of state and federal taxes.