On April 25th the California Labor Commissioner announced that her offices recently obtained settlements against four contractors selected for public works jobs throughout Northern California amounting to more than $610,000 in fines and back pay.

These efforts were part of a push by Labor Commissioner Julie Su to focus wage and hour law enforcement efforts on public works jobs. Commissioner Su said that she wants these cases to show general contractors the importance of working with legitimate and law abiding contractors. Last year the public works team of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement assessed $25 million in penalties and unpaid wages.

In one of the recent settlements a subcontractor had been hired by three general contractors to perform three different projects. The general contractors were held jointly liable for the subcontractor’s wage violations. In another settlement carpentry workers were not paid for all hours worked and were required to give kickbacks to an employer that meant the employers brought home less than the prevailing wage. The President of the contracting company, NBC General, plead guilty to felony charges of receiving kickbacks in wages and insurance premiums.

California employers must pay employees for all hours worked and contractors working on public works projects must also ensure they comply with prevailing wage laws. Prevailing wages serve a dual purpose by ensuring that workers are paid at reasonable rates and that contractors do not gain an unfair advantage from competitors in public works projects. Employers must also factor in overtime in their prevailing wage calculations.

California law makes it illegal for contractors to find ways around prevailing wage law; such as requiring employees to pay kickbacks with each paycheck. Another common tactic is when contractors misclassify workers to pay them at a lower prevailing wage rate. These tactics can lead to serious liability for an employer when employees bring lawsuits or class actions to recover the amount rightfully owed to them. It does not matter whether a contractor has been keeping records or not; failure to comply with record keeping also leads to additional liability for the employer to the employee.

If you have been cheated by an employer the California employment law attorneys of the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham, LLP can help you recover your unpaid wages. We work on a contingent fee basis which means we do not get paid unless we get a settlement or judgment in your favor. To schedule a free consultation call (951) 213-4786 today.

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