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All work, but no pay: Two wage theft cases filed

July 2, 2012:  Everyone wants to be paid for their work, so imagine how you’d feel if your employer decided not to pay the overtime due to you. And then tried to avoid responsibility by blaming it on a sub-contractor. That’s the common thread of two PJC lawsuits recently filed on behalf of several construction and electrical workers, Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc. and Ramos v. Colonial Electric Co., Inc. 

In Salinas, seven workers allege that they were jointly employed by a construction subcontractor, J.I. General Contractors, and a general contractor, Commercial Interiors. While employed by these two companies, the workers allege they were never paid overtime, although they frequently worked over 40 hours a week in various worksites in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. They also allege they were not paid for time they were required to meet for daily work meetings, for travel time between the work meeting place and their daily work site, and for time they were required to clean up the work site. The workers in this case are seeking their unpaid overtime pay, unpaid wages for the meeting and travel time, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. We are co-counseling this case with the Employment Justice Center in D.C.
 
In Ramos, eight electrical workers allege that they were jointly employed by a subcontractor, Houston Trades, and a general contractor, Colonial Electric Company. Similar to Salinas, the Ramos complaint alleges that the workers were never paid overtime for hours over 40 worked in a workweek in various worksites in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. In addition, the workers allege that the Defendants failed to pay Plaintiffs for their work at all over a several week period. The workers in Ramos are seeking their unpaid regular wages, unpaid overtime pay, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. We are co-counseling this case with Brooke Lierman and Chris Brown from Brown, Goldstein and Levy.
 
Both cases were filed as collective actions under the federal minimum wage and overtime law, and as class actions under state wage laws. These cases seek to combat the use of subcontractors by general contractors in an attempt to shield themselves from liability for illegal wage practices (while the general contractor still maintains the direction and control of the work). The Salinas and Ramos complaints allege that the general contractors knew about the subcontractor’s failure to pay overtime, but did not take any action to remedy that illegal pay practice. 
 
**Update** In December 2012, the Plaintiffs in Ramos v. Colonial Electric settled their case against Colonial Electric, Houston Trades, and Maynor Reyes.  Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Defendants paid Plaintiffs $52,000 for their unpaid wages, attorneys fees and costs.
 


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