A Las Vegas construction company was forced to pay back wages amounting to nearly $1.2 million to workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Investigators revealed the fact that lathers, finishers, plasterers and estimators who worked up to 58 hours per week were not paid overtime by the company. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid 1.5 times their usual hourly rate.
Desert Plastering, owned by two Las Vegas brothers, was ordered to pay 1,060 construction workers a total of $1,147,921 in unpaid overtime wages for work between April 2005 and March 2007.
The company was founded in 1998, and the two owners tout their “more than 35 years” of combined experience in installing and repairing lathe and stucco. The company website extols the high-quality work delivered by “a wonderful group of team players and highly qualified personnel.” Apparently Desert Plastering defined being a team player as “being willing to work overtime without pay,” at least for a thousand of its employees.
According to sources in Las Vegas, the company worked with a number of developers on the construction of new homes in several subdivisions.
The violations of federal and state overtime law were severe enough that Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao weighed in on the issue. In a news conference, Chao said, “Employers have a fundamental obligation to pay workers all the wages they have earned and they can count on hearing from this department when they fail to do so.”
Secretary of Labor Chao added,” In this case, we are recovering nearly $1.2 million dollars for more than 1,000 workers and the employer is on notice to properly compensate workers in the future.”
In addition, the investigation revealed that Desert Plastering failed to keep accurate records of the time employees actually worked. This, too, is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
There are speculations that in this case, the company tried to pay some employees a flat salary, rather than paying them for overtime. Under federal law, salaried employees may qualify for overtime, depending upon their job duties. In general, an employee must have significant administrative duties, authority to make business decisions, or must supervise 3 or more employees, to qualify as “salary-exempt.” That designation means the employee is not entitled to overtime pay, regardless of the number of hours worked. These employees were found to be “salaried non-exempt” meaning although they were paid a weekly salary, they were still entitled to overtime compensation.
In other cases, employers including those in the construction industry have attempted to miss-classify workers as “independent contractors” to avoid paying overtime. Because the company controlled how, when or where work was performed, the “independent contractor” designation doesn’t apply.
This action is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s continuing battle against employers who violate federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Just days ago, the Department of Labor forced a Connecticut healthcare firm, Stonington Behavioral Health, Inc. and its parent corporations to pay more than $1 million in overtime to 143 employees of the Stonington Institute, a residential rehab clinic.
Earlier in the month, the U.S. Department of Labor forced 107 subcontractors of KBR, Inc. of Virginia to pay some $1.5 million in back wages and benefits for up to 2,600 workers who participated in the Hurricane Katrina recovery project. The construction workers were involved in repairs to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport Mississippi or the Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The U.S. Department of Labor is still searching for some of the workers involved in that case. Anyone who believes that they are owed back wages for these projects can contact the nearest U.S. Department of Labor office. The average payment per worker in that case was $616.
Earlier this year, under a voluntary agreement to prevent a federal suit, Wal-Mart, Inc. agreed to pay $33 million in unpaid overtime wages to 86,680 employees throughout the nation. An internal audit revealed that the company had incorrectly classified some employees as “salary-exempt” when in fact they were entitled to overtime pay. In other cases, the company admitted that it had based overtime pay on the employee’s base hourly rate, not including incentives and bonuses in the employee’s average rate as required by law.
A streamlined federal agency dedicated to workers with disabilities and a human resources organization with 200,000 members are teaming up.
The link should provide more jobs and more services to Nevada workers with disabilities.
On the government side is the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy – ODEP, for short. On the private side, the Society of Human Resource Mangers, or SHRM.
“This alliance formalizes the relationship we have had with SHRM,” said Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, “benefiting SHRM as it serves its membership with the resources ODEP brings to the table and offering ODEP the opportunity for broader contact with human resource professionals.”
For Nevada workers with disabilities, the alliance should result in better access to resources. They will still benefit from all the services they received through the Nevada Department of Labor, but enjoy as well the resources made possible only by this partnership. They’ll gain from new research, the trading of information and guidance between the sectors, the provision of new resources to state agencies, and enhanced communication between all the parties involved.
Specifically, the new team-up will focus on outreach for disabled workers. It will encourage communication on the subject of employing workers with disabilities. And it should lead to recruiting and hiring more of the workers, whose talents are still being underused in the work world.
ODEP was formed in 2001 as a spin-off from the U.S. Department of Labor U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao hoped that by separating it from the larger Labor Department it would allow for a more timely and flexible response to the needs of workers with disabilities. SHRM dates back to 1948 and has 550 chapters. It’s represented in more than 100 countries worldwide. Its stated goal is to serve human resource professionals’ needs “by providing the most essential and comprehensive resources available.”
Many employers and employees in the automobile repair industry may have questions about an advisory issued recently that pertained to Nevada Worker Safety.
Why was the advisory issued?
Many mechanics and other workers in the auto repair business may not realize that some older trucks and cars have asbestos in their brakes and clutches. This asbestos poses a hazard to the health of workers who handle or are around this substance.
Hasn’t asbestos been around a long time?
Yes, for centuries asbestos has been used in many industries. Because it has fire-resistant properties, asbestos has been used in such diverse items as candle wicks and Egyptian burial clothes. According to legend, Charlemagne use asbestos to create a tablecloth. After meals, the tablecloth would be tossed along with the remains of the meal directly into the fire. Since the tablecloth was made of asbestos, it would survive the flames.
Why is asbestos suddenly considered dangerous?
As more research has been done in the last few decades, it has come to light how dangerous this substance can be. Asbestos breaks very easily, and the tiny fibers and dust can be inhaled. Once inside the body, asbestos can cause damage and disease.
Do many people die from asbestos-related illnesses?
Yes, exposure to asbestos causes many deaths. In fact, yearly in the U.S. around 10,000 people die of diseases related to exposure to asbestos. These diseases include cancer of the gastrointestinal system and the lungs, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is very rare. But as people who have been in contact with asbestos grow older, this disease is appearing more often. Mesothelioma is when cancer forms in the lining that protects our internal organs, also known as the mesothelium. In addition, these malignant cells can form in the linings of the abdomen and the heart.
Emergency plans are important for every workplace. Both workers and employees should be aware that, under a new alert put out by OSHA, those emergency plans should include contingencies for a global influenza pandemic.
A Nevada OSHA alert says that such a pandemic is far different from the seasonal “flu” that, for most of us, is an irritant but not life threatening. Pandemics are different. Because a new strain of virus appears, our bodies are not immune, and the disease spreads rapidly around the world. According to OSHA, the impact on the world’s economy could be greater than a terrorist attack.
It’s important to know the difference between the seasonal influenza, or “flu,” as we usually call it, and an influenza pandemic.
We’ve already developed an immunity to seasonal flu. But, says the Nevada OSHA alert, in a pandemic a new strain emerges. Nobody has developed an immunity. The ailment spreads quickly from person to person until it envelops the globe.
The last big pandemic was the outbreak from 1918 to 1920, when in 18 months 50 million people lost their lives. Not only the aged, small children, or those with weakened immune systems were endangered, as is the case with seasonal flu. In the pandemic during World War I, health young adults died within a few days of catching the illness.
Here are some simple steps you can take, similar to those for seasonal flu:
Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from infected people.
Cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough and be sure to use a disposable tissue.
Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.
There are safeguards that can be taken in the workplace as well. Choose conference calls over meetings. Have employees work from home where possible. And, in places where there is contact with the public, consider installing drive-through windows or other ways of restricting that contact.
Have you ever laughed at a cartoon character that slipped on a banana peel? Slips, trips, and falls may sound comical, like minor annoyances at worst. But that is a false first impression. They actually represent the most common accidents in the industrial workplace, and cause 15% of all deaths there. Not only that, they are second only to vehicle accidents as a cause of death, according to OSHA.
Recently revised Nevada OSHA standards mean it is time for you as an employer to update your Slips Trips Falls Poster. The newly revised standards are for walking and working surfaces, and with few exceptions apply to all permanent workplaces.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, strong safety awareness programs are important when it comes to stopping accidents – and that includes slips, trips, and falls.
The most commonly overlooked way of stopping the problem is simple housekeeping. If you as an employer keep all of your areas – whether they are service rooms, storerooms, or passageways – clean and orderly, you are helping promote safety. That, plus the prominent display of your Slips Trips Falls Poster, will go a long way toward accident prevention. Posters will remind workers to clean up every spill and spot.
The revised Nevada OSHA standards apply to just about all workplaces. The few exceptions are those permanent places where agricultural, mining, or domestic work is being performed. According to OSHA, every workplace floor must be kept clean and as dry as possible. Sometimes, industrial work requires a “wet” process. In those cases, you must have drainage, as well as mats, raised platforms, or gratings.
The aisles must be wide enough to accommodate mechanical equipment, where it is used. They must be wide enough for two people to pass. Messy, narrow aisles can result in damaged material and equipment, injured workers, and blocked emergency exits. When people are hurrying to get out of a building, accidents from tripping and falling are a likely occurrence.