- The Ontario (Canada) Ministry of Labor conducted construction jobsite inspections under the province’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) from May 1 to Aug. 31 and was able to recover CA$1.5 million of workers’ wages through the violations it discovered. Inspectors targeted both nonresidential and residential contractors, as well as structural and specialty trades.
- The ministry conducted inspections of 1,266 employer sites and found almost 55%, or 695, noncompliant. Upon determining that there was a violation, inspectors issued whichever notice fit the circumstance — compliance orders, notices of intervention, tickets, orders to pay wages — and achieved a 93% voluntary compliance rate when it came to employers paying the money they owed to workers. Almost 5,200 employees were shorted on pay, and inspectors found that the most common monetary violations were underpayment or nonpayment for public holidays, overtime and vacations. The most common non-monetary violations that inspectors found were a lack of written agreements for vacation pay, as well as wage statements and insufficient record-keeping.
- Construction workers, according to the ministry's report, could be at greater risk of having their employment rights violated because of the large number of them that work seasonal, part-time or temporary jobs. Those positions typically do not reap the benefits of a traditional, full-time, permanent employment relationship with a single employer. The ministry said the inspections helped to educate employers and employees about their responsibilities and rights under the ESA.
Construction workers and employers in the U.S. are more likely to see a random safety inspection sweep than one targeting wage violations unless the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division gets a verifiable and actionable complaint from someone.
The DOL conducted an investigation into Tennessee contractor Reynolds Baldwin III — doing business as Copperhead Construction LLC and Sara-Tech LLC — and recently ordered him to pay $531,000 of back wages, liquidated damages and civil penalties for violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The department found that Baldwin shorted employees on overtime pay, illegally altered time cards to make it look like employees worked fewer hours than they actually did and failed to maintain the required employee time records. Authorities said they cheated the State Compensation Insurance Fund out of at least $6 million.
In November, California authorities determined that Enrique Vera and Gloria Vera, sibling owners of Ultimate Inc., ran afoul of state law by committing payroll-related violations. For more than four years, authorities alleged that the duo falsified payroll records in order to pay lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums; discouraged injured workers from filing workers’ compensation claims; and, on one student housing project, failed to pay the mandatory prevailing wage.
The Veras face several felony counts and could be sentenced to up to 19 years in prison.