Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.
Subcontractor pays $33K in back wages after federal investigation finds employer incorrectly classified, underpaid plumbers
BATON ROUGE, La. – A Louisiana subcontractor was paying laborer’s wages to Karl Fusilier, a plumber working on the $8 million, federally funded Choctaw Lodge project in Baton Rouge. While the law requires his employer to pay him and co-workers as plumbers for skilled plumbing work, U.S. Department of Labor investigators say the subcontractor misclassified the three as “laborers,” cheating them of nearly $11 per hour.
An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division investigation found Pete’s Plumbing of Livingston Parish LLC in violation of Davis Bacon and Related Acts which requires employers to pay prevailing wages on federally funded projects. Ninety-two individual units in seven, two-story buildings, Choctaw Lodge is a project of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Our Plan B. Inc. is the project’s prime contractor.
Initiated by the division’s New Orleans District Office, investigators determined the Denham Springs plumbing company illegally classified the three workers as laborers while their work included using plumbing tools, and installing and extracting all plumbing piping, valves and fittings underground and behind walls. As laborers, they earned between $18 and $25.54 per hour, well below the prevailing wage rate of $36.27 per hour owed to plumbers, including required fringe benefits.
Following the investigation, Pete’s Plumbing agreed to pay $33,951 in back wages to Fusilier and his co-workers.
“Companies awarded federal contracts must comply with all applicable laws,” said Betty Campbell, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. “When a company, especially the prime contractor, enters into a contract with a federal agency, they agree to pay all workers the prevailing wages for that area. The agreement includes the workers for all subcontractors. Classifying an employee incorrectly as a ‘laborer’ who performs the work of a skilled tradesperson using the tools of the trade cheats the worker, their family and the company’s competitors.”
Fusilier said the back wages he received came at just the right time for him. “This is a blessing!” he said. With the money, Fusilier plans to fix his house’s roof, replace worn tires on his truck, put some money in the bank, and, take a well-deserved vacation and go fishing at the camp.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
The DBRA requires all contractors and subcontractors performing work on federal and certain federally funded projects to pay their laborers and mechanics the proper prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits, as determined by the secretary of labor. On a DBRA project, the prime contractor is responsible for the compliance of subcontractors and lower-tier subcontractors.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.