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New York officials charge construction companies with wage theft

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced last week that he and officials in surrounding New York counties have charged area construction companies and their owners with stealing more than $2.5 million in wages from more than 400 construction workers, according to www.constructiondive.com.

The companies reportedly bounced checks, paid hourly rates that did not meet the prevailing wage, refused to compensate workers for overtime or simply did not pay workers at all. The amount of wage theft per construction company ranged from $13,000 to $700,000.

Officials said immigrant workers, who often are hired as day laborers or through other casual means, are three times more likely to be victims of wage theft and tend not to report it because of language barriers or because they fear retaliation because of their illegal status. Immigrant worker advocates say the New York City construction boom during the past few years has led to more opportunities for contractors to commit wage theft and fraud.

Vance's office formed the Construction Fraud Task Force in 2015 after 22-year-old immigrant construction worker Carlos Moncayo died in a trench collapse while working at a Manhattan job site. The task force investigates safety hazards and construction-related fraud such as intentional nonpayment of prevailing wages, union benefits and workers' compensation premiums.

Nonprofit workers' advocacy group Polaris reported that misclassification of employees as independent contractors also is an issue in the U.S. When workers are categorized as independent contractors, construction companies do not pay into Social Security or Medicare on their behalf and do not typically pay overtime rates or provide unemployment benefits, workers' compensation or health insurance coverage.


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