Md. company accused of underpaying workers’ overtime ordered to issue thousands in back pay

A Bowie, Maryland-based concrete subcontractor accused of denying dozens of workers their full pay is being ordered to pay thousands in back wages, the U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday.

The company, V&V Construction Inc., classified “journey workers” as “skilled laborers” incorrectly and, as a result, underpaid them for overtime, the department said. Similarly, the subcontractor didn’t pay workers “their correct prevailing wages and fringe benefits,” the agency said in a news release.

Roberto Melendez, the department’s Wage and Hour Division district director in Richmond, said the investigation spanned from March 20, 2019 to March 17, 2021. Fifty-five workers “were not being paid the required wage,” he said.

“When it comes to the construction industries, we do have a problem there,” Melendez said. “This is an industry that we continuously find violations.”

WTOP reached out to V&V Construction for comment and has not yet received a response.

The DOL investigation found the company and its owners paid workers using a split rate of 25 hours per week as fully journey workers and 15 hours per week as skilled laborers. It also found the company submitted falsified payroll records and didn’t prove that it put up required worksite posters.

The workers, the investigation found, weren’t classified correctly on a federally funded housing project in D.C. They installed concrete as part of construction for Liberty Place Apartments in Northwest in August 2018. The company’s workers operated as a subcontractor to Hamel Builders of Washington LLC.

When the government pays for a project, Melendez said, “there’s usually a place in that contract where specified trades are paid a specified rate. And so that’s what this was all about. It was about skilled workers not getting paid the wage that was required.”

The DOL found that the company owed $195,492 in back pay to 55 workers, but the company didn’t make any payments and asked for a hearing with the Office of Administrative Law Judges.

The Office of Administrative Law Judges, meanwhile, upheld the findings and ordered V&V to pay $186,124 in backpay to the workers. Melendez said the agency tries to make sure the payments are made within 30 days.

The employers also agreed to a year and a half of independent monitoring of Davis-Bacon and Related Acts contracts “to ensure future compliance,” according to a news release.

Before its investigation, Melendez said the agency didn’t have a history of investigating the company for other violations. The agency, he said, can’t disclose the reason why it may launch an investigation.

In the construction industry, Melendez said violations are usually similar in nature, “where employees are not being paid either their proper rate, employees are either not getting paid for all the hours that they work, or they’re not being paid for the overtime that they also work.”

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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