Construction Workers Sue 8 Major Contractors Alleging Wage Theft on 14 Maryland School Projects
Prince George’s County, Maryland – A group of workers have filed a lawsuit in Prince George’s Circuit Court alleging rampant violations of the state’s prevailing wage law on 14 public school projects. The workers were employed by Epic Insulation, LLC – a local subcontractor with a known track record of repeated labor and tax law violations. The workers allege that they are owed over $100,000.00 in back wages.
The other seven named defendants include Whiting-Turner, Myco Mechanical, Phillips Way, Denver-Elek, Oak Contracting, Heer Bros., and Heery International. Under Maryland law, general and upper-tier contractors may be held liable for the wage violations of their subcontractors.
“This case is critically important because it serves as a wake-up call to contractors: you cannot simply turn a blind eye to the illegal cost-saving labor practices of your subcontractors,” said John L. Monroe, the Executive Director for the Foundation for Fair Contracting – Mid-Atlantic Region (FFC-MAR). “Public school construction is the last place we want to see contractors playing fast and loose with project standards,” added Monroe.
Data from the U.S. Department of Labor show that construction is a high-violation industry. Because construction bids are typically awarded to the lowest bidder, cutthroat competition in the sector leads to razor thin profit margins and a race to the bottom in labor practices. Many contractors have responded to such competitive pressures by minimizing costs using illegal means. As a result, the construction industry is awash with illegal labor practices, including wage theft, the exploitation of undocumented workers, cash-only payments, employee misclassification, tax fraud and unsafe job sites. Studies show that by ignoring federal and state labor laws, low-road employers are able to save 30 percent or more in labor costs. As a result, the modus operandi in the construction sector has become one of brazen lawbreaking.
For years, enforcement efforts in Maryland were complicated by the staggering amount of contracting and subcontracting in construction, which allowed developers and contractors to turn a blind eye to wage violations at their job sites. Maryland lawmakers recently addressed this issue by including joint and several liability provisions in the state’s prevailing wage and general contractor liability laws. The goal of these laws is to force contractors to be more selective in choosing the firms with which to do business. “Bids should be won on the basis of merit, not who can exploit the cheapest workforce,” said Monroe.
The case is Garcia et al. v. Epic Insulation, LLC et al., No. CAL22-01604 (Prince George’s County Circuit Court).
The FFC is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting workers on government construction projects from substandard wages and working conditions.