There have been several new laws in 2016, or new enforcement styles of existing laws, that are ready to make their mark on the construction industry. Among them are the US Department of Labor’s new rules on overtime pay and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act. Both laws affect the amount construction employees must be paid and when they should receive that pay, so documentation of employee time sheets and payments is becoming increasingly important. If your company plans to bid on any Federal Government work, violations of these new laws can keep you from getting the job.
Last year, we wrote about a great time sheet software, called TSheets, which electronically tracks time sheets and paychecks, integrates with QuickBooks and even allows employers to implement GPS tracking. Recently, the software company has put together an in-depth and interactive tool which highlights all successful cases of Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits since 1985.
In the construction industry alone, there have been 11,000 successful wage and hour prosecutions by the Department of Labor against construction firms since 1985. TSheets also found that nationally, around 75% of DOL investigations lead to a prosecution. This is probably because, by its own admission, the DOL typically goes after the most egregious cases.
The average cost of a DOL prosecution is $13,720 (excluding legal fees) to each construction firm affected. The industry as a whole has repaid $152,133,833 in back wages to employees as a result of these prosecutions, as well as $3,039,244 of fines (civil money penalties) — making the total cost to the industry $155,173,076.
The worst affected businesses are:
- All Other Specialty Trade Contractors* (1,130 prosecutions, $14,296 cost per prosecution)
- Plumbing, Heating, and Air-Conditioning Contractors (1,088 prosecutions, $12,390 cost per prosecution)
- Commercial and Institutional Building Construction (1,065 prosecutions, $14,811 cost per prosecution)
- Electrical Contractors and Other Wiring Installation Contractors (771 prosecutions, $12,413 cost per prosecution)
- Roofing Contractors (686 prosecutions, $9,864 cost per prosecution)
(*The "All Other Specialty Trade Contractors" category is defined here and essentially means subcontractors.)
The worst affected states are:
- Texas (1,567 prosecutions, costing the state's construction firms $25,735,980)
- Florida (1,043 prosecutions, costing the state's construction firms $11902428.5)
- California (687 prosecutions, costing the state's construction firms $17,357,780)
- Pennsylvania (490 prosecutions, costing the state's construction firms $4,927,409)
- New York (438 prosecutions, costing the state's construction firms $5,674,116)
If you haven’t been taking wages and the laws surrounding them seriously, it’s time to start, especially as they begin to not only affect your current financials, but also you future financials if you’re disqualified from new projects. If you’re in need of some advice on how to protect yourself and your business from an FLSA lawsuit, TSheets also gathered some invaluable legal advice from industry experts, which you can find by clicking here.
Construction Safety is talked about constantly. There are many construction companies that take it very seriously. There are also many that don’t. All will say it’s their top priority.
So what can a city do that’s facing regular worker deaths and increases in workplace injuries? New York City has decided to require extensive safety training for all of the 185,000 construction workers in the city.
OSHA currently controls over 20 laws that protect workers who file safety complaints against their employer or other employees. In general, whistleblowers are protected against retaliation from their employer.
In August of 2016, it was discovered that a luxury high rise condominium complex in San Francisco, which houses several celebrities, was sinking and leaning considerably. The 58-story Millennium Tower contains home that range in value of anywhere from $1.6 million to $10 million. Since the discovery, fingers have been pointed in all directions and several lawsuits have been filed.
In January of this year, tragedy struck a Florida construction company when 3 construction workers died while working underground below a newly paved road. After the first worker entered the hole and collapsed after entering the confined space through a manhole, the second went in to rescue him and also collapsed, followed by the third. After a post-incident investigation, OSHA has released their findings, as well as several fines.
In late June, OSHA pushed the enforcement of their 2016 rule which will require employers to electronically submit injury and illness reports from July 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017. At that time it was unknown when the administration would launch the platform to submit the data online, but that has now been decided.
In January of 2017, OSHA released a final rule which greatly reduced the allowable exposure to beryllium, a mineral that can cause deadly lung disease. While not as commonly encountered in the construction industry as other substances that cause terrible lung diseases, like crystalline silica and asbestos, beryllium is linked to a disease called chronic beryllium disease, which kills around 100 people each year. It’s commonly found in coal slag, which is used for sandblasting. According to the New York Times, OSHA estimates that 11,500 construction workers would be affected by OSHA’s reduced exposure limit.
In a year that OSHA can’t seem to enforce any new rules, it appears to have found a way to remove a rule from its books. As announced last week, OSHA has removed monorail hoists from Subpart CC – Cranes and Derricks in Construction. Employers are still required to follow other OSHA regulations regarding the hoists, but this rule should help clear up some inconsistencies.
Since the beginning of the year, OSHA has had a pretty hard time enforcing any of its new rules due to delays. The silica dust exposure rule was delayed 90 to September 23, the crane certification rule is facing yet another possible delay, and now the electronic injury reporting rule is facing another delay.
For over 60 years, nominal lumber dimensions have been used in lieu of actual dimensions for lumber. That fact hasn’t stopped 2 class action suits, one for Menards and one for Home Depot, from being filed by an Illinois law firm over the size discrepancy, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
On January 1, 2017, OSHA officially put into effect a revision to workplace injury and illness reporting that requires certain employers to submit recorded information of these instances electronically. Companies were to submit all of this information from the previous year (2016) by July 1, 2017, but now that due date is in jeopardy.