Brooklyn contractor pays more than $300K to settle worker wage theft claims
- Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, announced Monday that a Brooklyn construction company pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny for underpaying and committing wage theft against 21 employees. Brooklyn-based contractor The Urban Group made full restitution of $303,411. According to the New York Daily News, Gonzalez said the affected workers were immigrants.
- Between 2014 and 2015, according to Gonzalez' office, Urban employed six non-union workers to perform construction-related work — including demolition, masonry, carpentry and painting — at five schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Urban reportedly falsely certified that it paid those workers at prevailing wage rates ($62 to $63 per hour), but only paid between $10 and $17 per hour and no overtime or benefits. Urban ended up owing those workers more than $230,000 in restitution. Urban also reportedly underpaid non-union day laborers hired to perform construction work at other school sites by more than $71,000.
- The pay discrepancies reportedly were revealed when the company was forced to post the legal wage on signs around its worksites. The Urban Group on June 13 was sentenced to a conditional discharge and is debarred from performing public work in New York state as a contractor or subcontractor for five years.
In December, New York city officials, led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, launched a crackdown on wage theft in the city by announcing the prosecution of area construction companies that had allegedly stolen more than $2.5 million in wages from approximately 400 of their workers by writing them bad checks, not paying them prevailing wage rates or overtime and, in some cases, withholding payment altogether. The DA's office accused the companies involved of making total underpayments ranging from $13,000 to $700,000.
And, as with The Urban Group case, Vance said immigrant workers were particularly vulnerable to those intent on cheating employees out of their rightful pay. The city's building boom, he said, has also given those set on committing wage theft an abundance of opportunities to do so.
Last month, Vance's office charged city contractor Parkside Construction in a wage theft and workers' compensation underpayment scheme that allegedly left more than 500 employees underpaid by $1.7 million and the New York State Insurance Fund out of $7.8 million in premiums. Vance said Parkside adjusted time records, paid some workers under the guise of reimbursed expenses and underreported its payroll to the state by $42 million.
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