California Labor Commissioner Collects Over $1.3 Million in Wages and Penalties for 27 Workers on a Public Works Project
Sacramento—The Labor Commissioner’s Office collected $1,331,682 in wages and penalties, resulting from a prevailing wage assessment against Bakersfield-based subcontractor Grant Construction, Inc. The wages collected will compensate 27 workers for unpaid prevailing wages while working on a farmworker housing construction project in the City of Wasco in Kern County. The public works investigation determined that wage theft had occurred in the form of kickbacks and non-reporting of all hours worked. It found that a Grant Construction crew leader would collect the paychecks of the 27 workers, sign and cash them, and then pay the workers significantly less than the amount listed on their checks.
“The law requires that workers on construction projects with $1,000 or more public funds must be paid no less than the prevailing wage,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “These workers held Grant Construction accountable for cheating them out of their legal wages.”
The City of Wasco hired Wallace & Smith Contractors as the prime contractor to build a $42 million farmworker housing complex with 66 apartments. Wallace & Smith Contractors hired subcontractor Grant Construction, Inc., to bring in carpenters and siding workers for the job.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office opened its investigation in February 2019 after a complaint of public works violation was filed by a worker claiming underpayment of wages and non-payment of travel and subsistence. The worker stated he was paid in cash for work performed on the project.
The investigation also confirmed that Grant Construction, Inc. failed to report all the workers and hours worked on the Certified Payroll Reports (CPR) and falsified the CPRs, paychecks, and paystubs.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office cited Grant Construction, Inc., in June 2020, for underpayment of prevailing wages to 27 workers, civil penalties, and training funds. The company was not required to pay liquidated damages because it timely deposited the full assessment amount in August 2020. However, the company requested a review of the assessment, and the hearing was held in May 2021.
The Department of Industrial Relations Director issued a decision upholding the assessment in May 2022. A judgment was entered on the decision of the Director in August of 2022 for a total of $1,389,395, including interest.
The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, also known as the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.
All workers employed on public works projects must be paid the prevailing wage determined by the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), according to the project’s type of work and location. Failure to comply with public works requirements can result in civil penalties, criminal prosecution, or both. Employees with questions about their rights may call the Labor Commissioner’s Office at 833-LCO-INFO (833-526-4636).
The Labor Commissioner’s Office launched the Reaching Every Californian interdisciplinary outreach campaign in 2020. The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations, so workers and employers understand legal protections, obligations, and the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.
Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161
Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: MakeItFair@dir.ca.gov