By Dan Linehan
A Mankato company has paid about $5,600 in back wages after a Department of Labor and Industry investigation showed it underpaid 14 employees on a project at South Central College.
Javens Mechanical Contracting Co. broke the state’s prevailing wage law by paying specialized laborers at a cheaper rate and by improperly making deductions from paychecks, according to the investigation.
State law requires that wages on state-funded projects must be similar to wages for other work performed in the area. For example, the prevailing wage for a skilled laborer working on a large project in Nicollet County is $20.44 an hour, plus fringe benefits. That rate goes as low as $9.75 an hour, for landscapers, and as high as $43.57, for elevator constructors.
In this case, the employer paid cement masons, pipefitters, steamfitters, plumbers and sheet metal workers at the rate of common laborers, according to the investigation. It also deducted $1 an hour from wages under the “other” category. These deductions can be legal, but an employer must also offer a training course or an apprenticeship program.
The company, which had no comment on the findings, sent paychecks to the labor department, which distributed them to the employees. The back pay ranged from $12.34 for one worker to as much as $1,371.85.
The company was audited between May and August of 2012, and the case was closed last month.
The case was brought to the state’s attention by the Fair Contracting Foundation of Minnesota, a group that investigates violations of prevailing wage laws.
The foundation is funded by contractors and unions, typically as spelled out in collective bargaining agreements, said its executive director, Mike Wilde.
In this case, a worker’s representative notified the foundation about the potential violation, he said. Given that the same contractor had committed a similar violation about a year previously, Wilde paid special attention to it.