Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division aims to strengthen labor law compliance at Connecticut and Rhode Island construction projects
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division is conducting a multiyear enforcement initiative focused on the construction industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island, in which the division has found widespread noncompliance with the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The goal of this initiative is to remedy systemic violations and promote sustained compliance among contractors and subcontractors working on construction projects.
The initiative includes investigations of large construction projects in both states to assess compliance among general contractors, subcontractors and all other business entities providing services at these work sites. Wage and Hour Division investigators are reviewing employment practices, pay records and circumstances of joint employment to identify and remedy common violations.
Since 2008, the Wage and Hour Division's Hartford District Office has conducted 183 investigations of construction industry employers in Connecticut and Rhode Island, recovering nearly $3.3 million in back wages for 1,226 employees. Typical violations include failing to pay employees for all hours worked, paying piece-work rates that result in pay below the minimum wage, failing to pay overtime compensation and misclassifying FLSA-covered workers as independent contractors to circumvent wage laws. Due to concerns about the pervasiveness and severity of noncompliance, the division is documenting the structure and complexity of employment relationships in this industry to better target enforcement efforts and have a top-down impact on compliance behavior.
Increasingly, large companies such as developers and prime contractors coordinate production but subcontract the work out to smaller companies. These subcontractors either employ workers on-site or further subcontract out the skilled trades, such as carpentry, electrical work, plumbing and roofing. Because these smaller companies have many competitors, they face an intense pressure to lower the cost of their services at the expense of workers' wages and employment conditions.
"The Wage and Hour Division is employing new strategies to combat this 'race to the bottom' culture so that construction workers will not see their wages and benefits undercut, and law-abiding employers will not face unfair competition from contractors who take advantage of workers so eager for a job that they will accept substandard wages and unsafe conditions," said Neil Patrick, the division's Hartford district director.
Investigators also are enlisting the cooperation of general contractors in ensuring compliance among all subcontractors as well as third-party staffing companies that provide labor for construction projects. Additionally, the division is reaching out to workers, industry associations, community organizations, unions and other stakeholders to inform them of the initiative and engage their participation in promoting industrywide accountability and compliance.
To further these efforts, the Wage and Hour Division signed a memorandum of understanding in September with the Connecticut Department of Labor to coordinate the sharing of resources and information. The two agencies agreed to bolster their effectiveness by coordinating enforcement efforts targeting the unlawful misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Employee Benefits Security Administration also signed this agreement.
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 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 and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), its Hartford office at 860-240-4160, its New Haven, Conn., office at 203-773-2249 or its Providence, R.I., office at 401-528-4431. Information also is available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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