Shaping Smarter Regulations

Better DOL Wage and Hour Investigator Training

Recently there has been A few Davis Bacon Act investigation cases from out of the Norfolk W&H Division office. One reached a ridiculous conclusion. It involved an electrical contractor and a new school project. From start to finish it had 8 electricians which comprised of 3 electricians and 5 were classified as laborers. The investigators ruling of no violations was absurd. I realize this lady does not know anything about electrical work but it's not too hard to ask questions and find out. First of all she claimed these 5 laborers were not performing electrical work. Thus, this would mean that 3 electricians did an entire school from start to finish. That is impossible! These 5 laborers were on the job from start to finish. Secondly, she based her entire decision on the "slab" part of the job and obviously overlooking this big brand new shiny school. (slab work is where electricians install their underground conduits prior to cement being poured. The slab work is done early on a job and only comprises of about 5 percent of the work to be done) Because this pvc conduit is made of plastic, she determined and actually said in writing that electricians will come along later and install steel conduit inside of the pvc conduits and then it will be electricians work. It is impossible to install conduit inside of conduit. She ruled no violation.

On another new school project, this same electrical contractor started the job and did the exact same thing with two electricians and several laborers. This time it has been DOL endorsed as OK. It was objected to and the workers were back paid over $80.000. She is supposedly taking another look at the first school again. The problem with the back pay amount on the second project is it should have been double that amount after doing the math. She stands firm on the fact that if a worker on a construction project "walks"over to a storage container a couple times a day to get a tool or materials, the employer can legally classify him as a laborer. This includes in her words of going to a portable toilet too.

The company owner was let off the hook for half of the money that really should go to the workers. That's like robbing a bank, being caught by the Federal government and just ordered to give half the money back. He will rob banks again. As far as I know, there were no fines imposed either. The employer also claimed to have benefits on his "Statement of Compliance" weekly sheets submitted with the Certified Payrolls. The employees had no benefits. This is pure and simple wage theft. It goes completely against the DOL Wage and Hour Division "Mission Statement". There needs to be better training and particularly when it comes to an actual investigation. The media may be coming in on this DOL shortcoming. They are interested.

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Idea No. 50