DLI uncovers widespread wage theft and other unlawful practices on 19 construction projects, including at the Viking Lakes project in Eagan, Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has initiated a contested case against Property Maintenance & Construction LLC and Property Maintenance and Construction Inc. (PMC) and Advantage Construction Inc. (Advantage) by filing a Notice and Order for Hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings. In the notice, DLI alleges PMC and Advantage failed to pay workers as required by law, resulting in back wages owed in the amount of approximately $1.2 million and an additional equal amount of approximately $1.2 million as liquidated damages.
DLI's investigation of PMC and Advantage uncovered widespread wage theft and related unlawful practices on 19 separate construction projects, including the Viking Lakes project in Eagan, Minnesota, during its investigative audit period of March 4, 2019, to June 5, 2022. DLI identified 25 employees that it alleges were jointly employed by PMC and Advantage and had not been paid the wages they were due, including overtime wages. DLI's findings include that many employees were paid off the books and in cash for a substantial portion of their employment and were not provided with earning statements as required by law.
DLI also alleges the violations were willful. As described in the notice, PMC's owner displayed knowledge of overtime laws while flouting them and refusing to pay workers the overtime wages they were owed. Additionally described in the notice, the owner discouraged workers from reporting violations of the law and participating in DLI's investigation. As a result, DLI imposed a civil penalty of $25,000 for these willful violations of the law.
In October 2022, the Office of Minnesota Attorney General filed a lawsuit against PMC and its owner, alleging PMC and its owner hindered and delayed DLI's investigation and failed to make, keep and preserve records, and refused to make records available to the commissioner. The attorney general, PMC and PMC's owner settled that lawsuit in September 2023, clearing the way for DLI's investigation to conclude.
"Wage theft hurts workers and their families, and hurts responsible employers that abide by the law," said DLI Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach. "It is unacceptable for employers to cheat employees out of the full wages they work so hard to earn. Likewise, it is unfair for contractors to have an edge when bidding against law-abiding companies by stealing wages from workers."
Minnesota has robust laws to protect employees from wage theft and to make them whole when employers commit wage theft. DLI has authority to investigate potential violations of the Minnesota Wage Theft Prevention Act, other laws governing the payment of wages to employees, and laws requiring employment records and notifications to employees. Failure to pay wages due can result not only in an assessment of back wages, but also liquidated damages and civil penalties.
Additional information regarding employers' responsibilities under the Minnesota Wage Theft Prevention Act can be found at dli.mn.gov/business/employment-practices/wage-theft-law.