Building firms to pay $600k to miffed workers

A network of three Hudson construction companies will pay $600,000 to resolve complaints that it paid employees less than minimum wage and forced them to work more than 40 hours per week with no overtime.

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Dipat Construction, Jerry Construction and Kel-Rick Construction Management to pay $491,100 in back wages and damages to 99 employees who were misclassified as independent contractors.

The companies will pay another $108,900 in civil fines to the labor department. The penalty comes more than a year after the labor department first filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the companies.

A federal investigation found the three firms were intentionally misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees to avoid paying them time and a half for overtime hours, the labor department said Thursday in a statement. ment.

“They paid workers straight time for overtime hours and sometimes did not even pay for all hours worked,” George Rioux, director of the wage and hour division in the Boston district office, said in the statement. “Such behavior by any employer will not be tolerated.”

The labor department’s original complaint said the violations date back to March of 2004.

Complaints this year about rampant misclassification of independent contractors in New Hampshire captured the attention of state officials, who formed a task force to investigate construction firms throughout the state.

Independent contractors are typically paid more per hour than employees, but they’re cheaper to employ because they don’t have to be covered under expensive workers’ compensation policies.

Labor Commissioner George Copadis has said the five task force agencies plan to conduct joint inspections of construction companies that will include checking their books and interviewing employees.

A revised state law that went into effect this year increased the maximum fine to $2,500 with an extra $100 penalty per employee for each day of the violation, dating back to the first of the year.

No criminal charges have been filed against the owners of the three Hudson firms, which as of last year were housed in a warehouse on Security Drive. However, Jerry Poulin, owner of Jerry Construction, is prohibited from ever running another business covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Johanne Poulin is listed as the owner of Dipat Construction is and Patrick Poulin the owner of Kel-Rick Construction Management, according to the labor department.

The companies could not be reached for comment. All three listed phone numbers were out of service.