$242,301 Overtime Settlement to 85 workers
Courtesy: Los Angeles Times:
By: Patrick J. McDonnell
The suit alleges that Building Materials Holding Corp. of Boise, Idaho, did not provide overtime or breaks. The company denies wrongdoing but agrees to settle the case.
Pablo Nunez, a carpenter by trade, says he is accustomed to working 10-hour shifts, sometimes six days a week, on home-building sites throughout Southern California. But legally mandated overtime pay was almost as unheard of at job sites, he says, as visits from labor inspectors.
“The only person getting overtime might be the brother of the foreman,” Nunez said.
The Corona resident is among 85 residential construction workers from California, Nevada and Arizona who will share $242,301 in unpaid wages after settling a federal lawsuit last month against a major home-builder, Boise, Idaho-based Building Materials Holding Corp.
The suit, brought with the help of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, alleged that the company and its subsidiaries systematically failed to pay employees for hours worked, did not provide overtime or breaks and kept workers off the clock while they traveled between job sites and waited for materials to arrive.
The company denies the charges but agreed to settle the suit, said William Claster, an Irvine-based attorney for the firm. The company filed for bankruptcy in June.
Claster declined further comment. But industry officials called wage theft an aberration.
“It is essential that builders and subcontractors take care of their employees and follow employment and labor laws,” said Julie Senter, a spokeswoman for the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California. “And we’re confident the vast majority of the industry does just that.”
But advocates say the case illustrates how wage fraud is pervasive in the home-building industry, which relies heavily on immigrant labor, often hired through subcontractors.
What is unusual in this case, they say, is that the workers found a legal recourse.
Most victimized laborers don’t have the know-how to file suits, experts say.
A recent academic study surveyed more than 4,000 low-wage workers in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago and found that employees in home construction and other industries are routinely victims of wage theft.
In one finding, the study, by scholars from UCLA, the City University of New York and other institutions, noted that 76% of eligible workers surveyed were not paid the overtime mandated in federal law.
Government enforcement of wage guidelines has been ineffective, the study found.
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