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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.

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

Last week Houston City Council’s Public Safety Committee held a hearing to discuss a proposed city ordinance to eradicate wage theft in the Houston area.  The hearing included a presentation by Houston City Attorney David Feldman who explained the details of the proposal, and statements from members of the public who support it.  Following the hearing, Scott Braddock interviewed Ed Gonzalez, Mayor Pro Tem of Houston and chairman of the Public Safety Committee.  Read the following transcript of that interview, or watch the 4-minute video below.

Scott Braddock:  Talk a little about how this came about.  This has been something the people have been asking for – pleading for – for years.  Why now?

Ed Gonzalez:  We heard those concerns here at Council.  The mayor and myself had assured that we were listening.  We know the bureaucratic process can be slow at times, but we promise that we were listening and considering the feedback.   Read more » about Committee Chairman Discusses Proposed Wage Theft Ordinance [VIDEO]

Laws Fight Questionable Practices that Misclassify Workers or Seek to Avoid Paying State Employment Taxes or Premiums

The Illinois Governor’s Office reported on Tuesday that Governor Pat Quinn signed new laws that day that will help protect Illinois workers’ pay by fighting questionable business practices, particularly in the construction industry. The laws deal with the misclassification of workers and the attempts of employers to avoid paying state employment taxes and premiums. This week’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to ensuring that all Illinois workers are treated fairly and receive the compensation they deserve.

“Workers shouldn’t have to worry about whether their employers are following the rules and paying everything they owe,” Governor Quinn said. “These new laws will also help the state collect the money it’s owed and help those out of work find employment.”

House Bill 2649, sponsored by State Representative Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) and State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), addresses a common construction industry practice of misclassifying workers as independent contractors.   Read more » about Illinois Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Protect Workers’ Paychecks

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