Construction companies in New York are required to pay workers on public projects a predetermined hourly rate. This prevailing wage is set by local authorities, and in New York City, it is established by the Office of the City Comptroller. Failing to pay the prevailing wage can lead to criminal sanctions including jail time, which is what happened recently in a case involving the owner of a Long Island contractor.
On June 10, the New York State attorney general and comptroller announced that the owner of a Nassau County-based construction firm would spend 30 days in jail for failing to pay the prevailing wage and falsifying records to conceal his activities. He will serve three years of probation after being released. His wife, who was convicted on misdemeanor counts of the same charges, was given a conditional discharge.
The man was convicted of paying his workers $281,630 less than the prevailing wage on building projects at several Bronx County public schools between 2012 and 2015. He also submitted records to the Department of Education that made it appear the workers had been paid the proper rate. The sentences were handed down as part of a plea agreement the couple entered into in February. They also paid workers $80,000 in restitution. An order of restitution is in place for the remaining $201,630, and the couple is to be barred from bidding on any future public projects in New York.
This case reveals that wage and hour claims can result in more than just financial sanctions. Attorneys with experience in this area may point out cases like this one to workers who have been treated unfairly but are reluctant to take action. Attorneys might also encourage workers to keep their pay stubs and time cards as they are usually the most compelling pieces of evidence in wage and hour cases.