When the private sector does not address a major issue, the public sector will often step into the vacuum and do it. The construction industry has been slow to embrace the principles of social responsibility and sustainable value, focusing instead on whatever it takes to be lowest bidder. As a consequence of this, government is adopting policies that reshape the rules for the industry.

Following reports on the alleged mistreatment of workers on University of Texas student house projects, some of those workers actually received some good news this past week.  They’ve now received checks for the overtime their bosses had previously denied them.

After fighting very hard to get it, the Workers Defense Project in Austin let us know that some of the workers recovered $35,000 in overtime payment that they were due for work on the Calloway House project that was featured in the follow-up report from The Daily Texan.  Workers Defense held a celebration at their offices for those workers and to offer encouragement to others who are still trying to recover money they are owed.

“Without God, none of this would be possible,” said one worker who was elated to finally get his paycheck.  It’s not the first time he’s been stiffed by an unscrupulous construction company owner.  “This happens way too much, but these people helped me get the money I had already earned so I can feed my family.”   Read more » about Workers Win $35,000 in Overtime Pay Owed for UT Student Housing

We've heard from many construction executives in Houston who are watching the race for City Controller with great interest, largely because of one of the key issues being raised by candidate Bill Frazer: the city’s controversial drainage fee. The reason construction executives have been watching this closely is because some of them would be awarded contracts to build the drainage projects to be funded by the fee. But, the problem is there seems to be mismanagement of the fee – or at the very least it seems to be under-performing in a way that doesn't live up to the hype.

Bob Price at TexasGOPVote first noted these problems:

  • The 2012 drainage fee collections were only $108 million, $17 million less than targeted. 2013 and 2014 estimates are even lower, at $103 million for each year. This produces a three-year shortfall of over $60 million. It should also be noted that the ReBuild Houston website posts an interim report reflecting estimated

  Read more » about Some in Construction Are Watching Houston’s Drainage Fee Controversy

It has been three years since we began reporting about wage theft and worker misclassification here on Construction Citizen.  In September 2010 Jim Kollaer reported that twenty-three states at that time had signed Wage Theft and/or Worker Misclassification bills into law.  That number has now grown to thirty and may continue to grow as local governments grow tired of waiting for Congress to pass legislation on these issues at a national level.

Back in 2010, there were two federal bills under consideration: The Fair Playing Field Act (SB 3786) and The Employee Misclassification Prevention Act (HR 5107).  Neither of these ever made it out of committee.   Read more » about Wage Theft Legislation Update

Compliance with wage and hour laws can be difficult for employers in the construction industry.  With work hours fluctuating due to weather, availability of materials and employee turnover, maintaining proper time records and pay practices is a challenge.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the source of most federal wage and hour requirements.  During the last fiscal year, the DOL conducted thousands of investigations and collected more than $280 million in back wages from employers.

Thomas Perez, the newly confirmed Secretary of Labor, has listed wage and hour enforcement as one of his top priorities, and the construction industry is among the DOL’s targeted industries.  So it makes sense to be prepared.  Look out for these common FLSA compliance problems:   Read more » about Wage and Hour Investigations – Are You Prepared?

Just because the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a delay to mandatory operator certification, doesn’t mean it’s sure to happen.  Employers and operators should take notice of recent activity in Washington, D.C.

We learned last week about a different regulation that was in a similar situation to 1926.1400 Cranes and Derricks in Construction.  On August 7, OSHA withdrew a proposed rule to amend the On-Site Consultation Program.

Although this has nothing to do with cranes and derricks, the parallels between the two rules and the actions taken by the Federal Agency are worth noting.   Read more » about Could OSHA Change Course on its Proposed Delay of Operator Certification?

Part of our mission at Construction Citizen is to offer construction executives up-to-date information about best practices and how to be in compliance with the laws and regulations that are constantly being updated.  That's why we're excited to announce that Employment Law Attorney Vianei Lopez Braun will be joining us to offer monthly updates on what's happening with employment law.  In addition to her status as a partner at Buck Keenan, LLP in Houston, Braun is also a regular speaker at Texas Business Conferences around the state.   Read more » about Introducing Employment Law Expert Vianei Lopez Braun [VIDEO]

Low-wage workers, grassroots community organizations, and responsible businesses are together writing a historic chapter in the City of Houston’s development.  Beginning in late 2011, the Fe y Justicia Worker Center began building a coalition of organizations and responsible businesses – now 34 members strong – across the City of Houston to address the problem of wage theft and craft a sensible public policy solution.

On July 23rd, workers, grassroots organizations, people of faith, and community leaders joined forces at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee Hearing held in the Houston City Council Chambers to make the case that an anti-wage theft ordinance is sound public policy   Read more » about Precedent-Setting Anti-Wage Theft Ordinance Within Houston's Reach

A new law in Tennessee gives the state’s Department of Labor (DOL) sharper teeth with which to take a bigger bite out of workers’ compensation fraud in the construction industry.  As of July 1, 2013, the Tennessee DOL not only has the ability to fine a contractor for not having a workers’ compensation policy, but now can assess administrative penalties for the fraud as well as refer cases where the fraud is discovered to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or to the local district attorney for further prosecution.  The Society for Human Resource Management published an article written by Susan R. Heylman (subscription required) explaining the new authority this law gives the Tennessee DOL:

“If the department finds that a construction company improperly classified workers as independent contractors rather than as employees, it may impose on the company fines of up to $1,000 or 1.5 times the average yearly workers’ compensation premium that the company should have paid for the workers.”   Read more » about Tennessee Takes a Bite out of Worker Misclassification

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