In California, a plumbing subcontractor building the new math and science building at San Joaquin Delta College has been ordered to pay $858,840 in back wages to 44 workers by the California Department of Industrial Relations.
Nicodemus Plumbing & Mechanical of Cypress will also pay $230,050 in fines for failing to pay prevailing wages, failing to pay overtime, and intentionally falsifying certified records while acting as a subcontractor on the public works project. The general contractor, Taisei Construction Corp, was also fined. Commissioner Julie A. Su said,
“Wage theft will not be tolerated. Falsifying records to underreport the number of hours worked is stealing money from workers and my office will take swift and aggressive action to end this illegal and abusive practice.”
This story, like many others, shows that the chain of command among contractors on large projects can often lead to wage theft. With each tier of subcontracting it becomes harder to ensure that things will be done legally. Unfortunately, this complex system can also lead to purposeful breaking of labor laws by those at the top of the chain who use faulty numbers from those at the bottom to hide their wrongdoings.
According to the Nicodemus Plumbing & Mechanical website, much of the non-union shop’s past work has been done building Marriott Hotels, a company with recent labor violations of its own. Prime contractor Taisei Construction Corp. is ultimately responsible for the actions of its subcontractors, according to Su:
“Prime contractors can be held jointly responsible when their subcontractors fail to follow California’s labor law.”