Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, March 17, 2005

This Is Prevailing Wage Rate Legislation With A Real Bite

Sometimes when describing criminal penalties in legislation, I call them the "bring your toothbrush" section, based on an experience as a young associate when I was sent to domestic relations court to pursue child support owed to the niece of the partner I worked for. The non-paying dad was dutifully hauled into court and since he clearly was delinquent was asked by the Court whether he had or would pay. When he responded he hadn't and couldn't, the Court asked if he needed any time to take care of personal matters before going to jail. "Nope", was his somewhat smart alecky reply, "I rode the bus and brought my toothbrush." That always gets a chuckle and usually the crowd pays at least some attention to the particular statute in question. But rarely are there examples of where people actually do go to jail for employment law violations, but today's article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Employer Gets Jail for wage offenses really would get their attention.

An excavation contractor who failed to pay the prevailing wages on a job will be spending 16 week ends in jail and five years probation for failing to properly pay the prevailing wage. He had earlier pled guilty to a felony of third degree larceny and a misdemeanor of failing to pay the proper wage rate. Given one last chance to substantially reduce his jail time by making payment, the contractor said he couldn't because the state had frozen all payments to him because of charges he had violated state labor laws. (Anyone having done construction work with a government agency will be able to identify with that sort of problem.) It is not quite clear given the felony larceny charge that there might not be more going on here than just a prevailing wage rate violation, but still it should be enough to get anyone thinking of fudging a little bit on a prevailing wage rate to pay attention.

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