September 23, 2014:
The Law Offices of Joshua N. Garick, P.C. settled a prevailing wage case on behalf of contractors who were not properly compensated by their employer. These employees alleged that their employer deducted health insurance premiums from their pay without actually purchasing health insurance and also failed to pay overtime for each hour they worked in excess of 40 hours each week.
The Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Act (G. L. c. 149, § 27) applies to contractors employed by cities and towns to perform certain public works projects. These employees are required to be compensated by an amount known as the “prevailing wage,” which is an amount determined by the state. This hourly rate includes an allocation for health insurance and an allocation for pension contributions regardless of whether the employee actually receives these benefits. In situations where an employee does not purchase health insurance or contribute to a pension plan, the employer is still required to pay the employee the full wage that includes these allocations.
In this case, it was alleged that the employer deducted a weekly contribution for health insurance without providing health insurance to the contractors. As a result, these employees were paid less than the prevailing wage. In addition, the employer refused to pay overtime at time and a half of the published prevailing wage. Attorney Garick filed a lawsuit against the employer and the town where the work was completed. This prompted the town to withhold payments owed to the employer under the contract until the employer resolved the lawsuit. As a result of the economic pressure placed on the employer, a settlement was reached for more money than the employees claimed was owed.
The Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Act penalizes employers heavily for failing to comply with the law. An employee is entitled to up to triple damages, attorneys’ fees and legal costs if they are forced to file a lawsuit against their employer to recover these wages. Thus, it is important that you consult an attorney promptly to ensure you are properly compensated and can recover actual and punitive damages for non-compliance with the law.