Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Hartford District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has launched an enforcement initiative to identify and eliminate wage and hour violations by employers at Rhode Island and Connecticut construction projects through increased compliance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Due to the competitive nature of the construction industry, some contractors and subcontractors cut corners with respect to wages, hours and employment conditions,” said Neil Patrick, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Hartford. “The Wage and Hour Division is developing new strategies to better identify and remedy widespread labor violations so workers are protected against exploitation and law-abiding employers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage when they play by the rules and pay fair wages.”
The initiative will involve investigations of general contractors and subcontractors working on large construction projects in order to identify patterns of minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping violations. The Wage and Hour Division will pursue corrective action, including payment of back wages, civil money penalties and liquidated damages.
The department is also seeking to map the employment relationships among the layers of contractors to better target its enforcement efforts and have a broad-based, top-down effect on the industry. Between 2000 and 2010, the Wage and Hour Division conducted nearly 300 investigations of construction industry employers in Rhode Island and Connecticut that resulted in the payment of $5.6 million in back wages to nearly 3,300 workers.
“These numbers show that we need to change industry behavior across the board, not simply on an employer-by-employer basis,” said Patrick. “Paying workers the proper wages is the employer’s responsibility. We particularly want to encourage general contractors to require and ensure FLSA compliance by all of their subcontractors. Workers deserve no less.”
As part of the initiative, the Wage and Hour Division will reach out to and engage in dialogue with employer and employee associations, community organizations, government agencies, unions and other stakeholders.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as one and one-half times their regular hourly rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
The initiative is part of the Labor Department’s efforts to enforce federal labor laws for low wage and vulnerable workers. For more information on the FLSA, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), its Hartford office at 860-240-4160 or its Providence, R.I., office at 401-528-4431. Information is also available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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