Oregon House passes construction wage protection measures
- The Oregon's House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation that would require general contractors to pay past due wages and benefits owed to their subcontractors' employees under certain circumstances, according to News Channel 21 KTVZ.
- A general contractor would have to pay delinquent wages and/or benefits if such a claim filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is investigated and determined to be valid and if the general contractor has not yet paid the defaulting subcontractor in full.
- Last year, bureau had to collect more than $600,000 from employers on behalf of unpaid workers. The bill will now go to the state Senate for review.
This bill is similar to a measure that went into effect in California on Jan. 1 but has fewer teeth. In California, general contractors must pay valid wage claims whether or not the subcontractor has been paid in full. However, the law does allow general contractors to withhold payment from subcontractors until they offer proof that they've paid their employees.
Attorney John Antracoli, a partner in the trial section and construction law group at Rutan & Tucker, told Construction Dive in December that the California law could also be a way for small subcontractors to fight back against being shortchanged on their payments.
To be able to claim wages under this new California law, the contract date for the work in question must be Jan. 1 or later, so the recent case of contractors who did not pay the prevailing wage to those working for them at the Pacific Amphitheater at the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa between 2013 and 2015 would not fall under the new legislation. The Orange County (California) District Attorney's Office alleges that along with not paying the prevailing wage, the construction company owners altered records to avoid paying state taxes as well.
Whether it's payment short of the prevailing wage or nonpayment of union benefits, law enforcement has been more enthusiastic about prosecuting these crimes in recent years. In a sweeping operation, the Manhattan District Attorney's office announced in December that prosecutors, in coordination with surrounding counties, had charged more than 400 companies with "wage theft" of almost $3 million. Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the way these companies perpetrated the theft was by bouncing checks to their workers, paying hourly rates lower than the prevailing wage, not paying overtime and withholding pay.
- News Channel 21 KTVZ Oregon House OKs construction worker wage protections
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