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  • Writer's pictureFFC-MAR

D.C. Attorney General Schwalb Sues 5 Construction Companies and Labor Brokers for Widespread Illegal Worker Misclassification Scheme

June 18, 2024


Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb announced that The Office of Attorney General (“OAG”) filed a lawsuit today, alleging that the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company (“Whiting-Turner”), W.G./Welch Mechanical Contractors, LLC (“Welch”), and three labor brokers—Mechanical Plumbing Crew, Co. (“MPC”), Ramirez Plumbing, Inc. (“Ramirez”), and GINCO HVAC, LLC (“GINCO”)—violated the District’s wage-and-hour laws, cheating over 370 D.C. workers out of wages and benefits.  The complaint alleges that Welch and the labor brokers misclassified the workers as independent contractors instead of employees in a scheme that resulted in an unjust windfall to Whiting-Turner, one of Welch’s major general contractors.


One of Welch’s most high-profile projects is the City Ridge mixed-use development on Wisconsin Avenue NW, consisting of 360,000 square feet of commercial space, including the District’s first Wegmans Food Market, and a 690-unit residential building.  The project’s developer, Roadside Development, selected Whiting-Turner as the general contractor, who in turn executed a $19 million subcontract with Welch, who in turn further subcontracted with labor brokers MPC, GINCO, and Ramirez to provide low cost, misclassified workers to Whiting-Turner for construction on City Ridge, OAG alleges. 


Similarly, Welch executed contracts to provide mechanical services worth over $11 million and $5 million, respectively, on Monument Realty’s “40 Patterson” at 40 Patterson St. NE, and Lerner Residential’s “1000 South Capitol” at 1000 S. Capitol St. SE.  OAG's lawsuit alleges that Welch again turned to labor subcontractors, including MPC and Ramirez, who provided workers for one or both of these projects.


With this lawsuit, OAG is seeking restitution and penalties from Welch and the other four defendants, and to force all five companies into compliance with the District’s Workplace Fraud Act, Minimum Wage Revision Act, and Sick and Safe Leave Act.


“The construction industry is loaded with nonunion contractors who hire subcontractors called labor brokers to act as intermediaries between the workers and the construction companies,” said Chuck Sewell, Marketing Director for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 100.  “This leads to a diffusion of responsibility, where neither the broker nor the construction company takes full responsibility for the workers' conditions, rights, and welfare.  Labor brokers often put their workers on projects without sufficient training, risking their safety and resulting in poor quality workmanship.  They misclassify workers to avoid paying taxes, workman’s compensation insurance, and many other things they are required by law to pay.  These cost-cutting measures allow nonunion contractors to underbid union contractors, harming our building trades unions by eroding membership, undermining collective bargaining, suppressing wages, and threatening job security.  We thank OAG for working to ensure the industry is safe and fair for all contractors and workers in Washington, DC by tackling the illegal use of labor brokers and bad contractors.”


The lawsuit is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jude Nwaokobia and Workers’ Rights and Antifraud Section Chief Graham Lake.


Workers who believe that their rights have been violated, or that they have experienced wage theft or other wage and hour violations, can contact OAG by calling (202) 442-9828 or emailing workers@dc.gov or trabajadores@dc.gov.

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