5 prominent DC construction companies accused of wage, benefit theft in lawsuit

D.C.’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against five construction companies and brokers claiming they misclassified hundreds of workers, depriving them of benefits and wages.

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb claims some local construction companies are “stealing” from workers.

“Labor brokers and the contractors that employ them not only steal from workers responsible for building our city but exact an unfair competitive advantage over businesses that play by the rules,” Schwalb said in a news release. “My office will always have workers’ backs and ensure that all businesses in the District compete on a level playing field.”

In the lawsuit, the attorney general said that the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, WG/Welch Mechanical Contractors and three labor brokers violated the District’s wage and hour laws.

One of Welch’s most high-profile projects is the City Ridge mixed-use development on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest D.C.

The lawsuit claims the businesses boosted their profits by stealing from workers, stating the brokers tried to cut corners and reduce costs by illegally misclassifying hundreds of employees as independent contractors.

The attorney general said that this, in turn, denied the workers minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave and other benefits.

“The construction industry is loaded with nonunion contractors who hire subcontractors called labor brokers to act as intermediaries between the workers and the construction companies,” said Chuck Sewell, marketing director for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 100.

“They misclassify workers to avoid paying taxes, workman’s compensation insurance, and many other things they are required by law to pay,” Sewell added.

Through this lawsuit, the attorney general’s office plans to have the construction companies pay back the workers affected and pay penalties to the court. They will also force all five companies to comply with the District’s Workplace Fraud Act, Minimum Wage Revision Act and Sick and Safe Leave Act.

WTOP has reached out to Whiting-Turner and WG/Welch for comment on the lawsuit.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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