A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Reshaping the Construction Industry

The owner of a drywall company in Marysville, WA (about 40 miles north of Seattle) was convicted of a felony last week for workers’ compensation fraud and failing to report collected sales tax.  He was sentenced to over 6 years in prison and taken into custody, in part for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employees.  Judge Ellen J. Fair ordered Mark D. Standley to repay over $2,400,000 for these crimes he committed from 2003 to 2008.  The Washington State Department of Revenue (a division of their State Department of Labor and Industries) reported that:“[Judge] Fair said the exceptional sentence was appropriate given Standley’s crime and failure to make significant restitution. She had given him a year to make restitution, including penalties and interest, to the Department of Revenue and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). He repaid only $500.”This is yet another example of strict penalties being handed out for what has become common practice in many areas of the construction industry.  
November 04, 2010
Editor’s note:  The name of the Construction Industry Sustainable Workforce Alliance (CISWA) was later changed to the Construction Career Collaborative (C3).As a specialty contractor with a significant hourly workforce in the commercial construction industry, I am deeply concerned about a disturbing trend that has developed over the past thirty years and has recently escalated to a new level.  Beginning with the 1980s economic decline in Houston and Texas, and continuing over the last three decades, employment practices in the commercial construction industry have deteriorated to the point that, for the most part, the employee/employer relationship is almost non- existent.  Except at the more responsible companies, the once valued partnership between employer and worker has been replaced by the hiring of independent 1099 contractors, “pieceworkers” and temporary staffing companies.  
November 03, 2010
This Tuesday New York’s Construction Industry Fair Play Act, aimed at combatting worker misclassification, went into effect.  A press release issued by the New York State Department of Labor stated:“Studies show that in any given year, employers misclassify from 15 to 25 percent of construction workers in New York State as independent contractors.  Employee misclassification happens when an employer labels workers wrongly as independent contractors or pays them completely off the books and thus denies them benefits and protections under State and Federal law.    
October 28, 2010
The wage theft class action suit filed by the Workers Defense Project on behalf of three construction workers who claimed that the specialty contractor Greater Metroplex Interiors (GMI) had shorted them on wages due and had not paid them overtime on the construction of the Gables Park Plaza has an interesting basis on a little known part of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) according to the Department of Labor.The interesting point about the suit is that the suit is filed claiming joint employer status.  The plaintiff’s attorney, Craig Deats of Deats, Durst, Owen & Levy, PLLC in Austin told Construction Citizen that this is a common law under the labor laws and that the courts will decide whether GMI acted as a joint employer as is claimed in the suit.  He offers his opinion in the following video:  
October 27, 2010
Patricia Zavala, Workplace Justice Coordinator for the Workers Defense Project, recently answered a few questions for Construction Citizen regarding last week’s press conference on the construction workers’ class action law suit we told you about yesterday, as well as the Workers Defense Project, their campaign for fair working conditions and the services which they provide for construction workers in the Austin area.Construction Citizen:  Please introduce yourself and tell us about the Workers Defense Project – who your organization is, what you do and why you do it.
October 26, 2010
Construction Citizen attended a press conference at the Gables Park Plaza in Austin, Texas last week.  The press conference was called by the Workers Defense Project to announce that they had assisted three workers who claimed that their employer, Capoera Construction, and Greater Metroplex Interiors (GMI), the contractor who hired Capoera Construction, owed them back wages and overtime for work that they performed on this and another project.  The men say that they often worked up to 70 hours and six days per week without receiving overtime pay and that they were not even paid at all for their work toward the end of the projects.
October 25, 2010
Around the country there are a number of irresponsible owners and contractors who are being found out for the fact that they are using cash workers who should be paid as employees.  Some of these cash workers have false social security cards or other false identification, many are without safety training, and many have no crafts skills.Some workers who have been cheated out of wages and overtime for which they were legally due are now filing wage theft lawsuits.  However, some workers are undocumented and they cannot protest for fear that the contractor will inform on them and ICE will pay a visit to their home to remove them or members of their families
October 20, 2010
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October 20, 2010
Robert Wood, the Tax Lawyer, in a blog on www.Forbes.com pointed out the movement across the country to criminalize the misuse of independent contractors, and includes several links to see more about the issue.  As we have pointed out in previous blogs, the Wage Theft and Misclassification laws passed or pending in several states are fast becoming the norm in the country.  In talking about Pennsylvania’s new Construction Workplace Misclassification Act, Wood states:“Pennsylvania’s rifle shot law is aimed like a laser at the construction industry, which isn’t exactly in a rosy financial position anywhere.  Yet it’s also clear that the construction industry has long been a kind of breeding ground for worker classification abuses that often swarm like mosquitoes.”  
October 19, 2010
Last Wednesday, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell signed the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act, which adds Pennsylvania to the growing list of states passing legislation designed to eliminate the practice of worker misclassification by imposing criminal penalties upon employers who intentionally label their employees as independent contractors.  Like laws passed in other states, the new act spells out the criteria for classifying a worker as an independent contractor.  The act states that a person in the construction industry may only be paid as an independent contractor if that person has a written contract for service, is “free from control or direction” as to how to perform the service, and if that person normally performs the service as an independent business.  The new law makes it a criminal offense to misclassify workers, but also takes it a step further.
October 19, 2010