US Department of Labor recovers more than $374K in back wages, damages for 62 workers after Cleveland construction contractor denies overtime
CLEVELAND, TN – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $374,493 wages and liquidated damages for 62 construction workers employed by a Cleveland contractor that denied them overtime wages when required by federal law, and jeopardized the safety of an 11-year-old by employing them as a groundskeeper allowed to operate dangerous equipment.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigators found the pay practices of Tom Willumson LLC – operating as Concept Construction – violated the Fair Labor Standards Act as follows:
Failing to provide one worker their final paycheck, resulting in a minimum wage violation.
Incorrectly classifying some workers as independent contractors and paying them straight-time for all hours worked. By doing so, the employer did not pay the additional half-time rate for hours over 40 in a workweek, an overtime violation.
Paying some workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, then providing them bonuses to make up the difference between the minimum wage and a previously agreed-upon rate of pay. This practice led to the employer’s failure to pay the required overtime rate to workers.
In addition to the wage violations, investigators learned Concept Construction employed an 11-year-old as a groundskeeper, who was allowed to operate a farm-style tractor and weed-eating equipment, as well as work more than 8 hours in a day, all in violation of FLSA child labor provisions. As a result of their investigation, the division assessed a $14,944 civil money penalty to the employer for the child labor violations.
“Construction industry workers are among those who too often suffer wage theft because their employers either misunderstand their legal obligations or intentionally shortchange them and undercut their competitors at the same time,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Lisa Kelly in Nashville, Tennessee. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to holding these employers accountable for their actions – in error or by design – to ensure workers are paid all of their hard-earned wages and receive the benefits the law provides.”
In fiscal year 2021, the division recovered more than $36 million for more than 21,000 construction industry workers in more than 3,000 investigations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there were more than 434,000 job openings for construction workers, and that about 220,000 industry workers quit their jobs in May 2022, all of which makes for a highly competitive job market.
“The current job market has empowered workers and given them the ability to make choices about the employer for whom they work,” Kelly explained. “Employers who fail to respect workers’ rights are likely to find it increasingly difficult to retain and recruit the people they need to operate their businesses, and they may lose out to those who recognize and reward workers for their contributions.”
The division provides multiple tools to help employers understand their responsibilities, and offers confidential compliance assistance to anyone with questions about how to comply with the law, including fact sheets with information about requirements for hiring young workers.
“Concept Construction’s decision to allow an 11-year-old child to operate a farm-style tractor and weed-eating equipment is hard to understand,” Kelly said. “Laws to prevent such actions exist to prevent life-changing injuries or worse from occurring and this employer has learned there are costly consequences to bear.”
Workers can call the division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
For information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit the agency’s website to learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android Timesheet App for free.