Almost two dozen workers employed by drywall subcontractors building a new home for the General Assembly and other big construction projects in Virginia have received payouts to compensate for allegedly unpaid overtime under settlement of a federal lawsuit filed against three Richmond-area companies.
Under the settlement — approved by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson on Jan. 26 and first reported by WRIC-Channel 8 this week — 22 workers received a total of $54,326 for their claims of wage theft by two drywall subcontractors and the company that hired them for the high-profile construction project next to Capitol Square, as well as other major public and private construction projects in Virginia.
The payments ranged from $574 to $21,628 for 19 employees of two drywall subcontractors, and $500 each for three employees of one other subcontractor not named in the suit for allegedly similar labor practices.
The settlement also requires the companies to pay $86,000 in attorneys fees for the lawyers representing workers in the case, which was filed in December 2020.
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“It’s a fair settlement for our clients,” said Matthew Kaplan, a Fairfax County attorney who specializes in violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets federal requirements for overtime wages.
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The lawsuit alleged that Capital Interior Contractors — and two of its drywall subcontractors, GTO Drywall Inc. and RDIC Inc. — improperly misclassified employees as independent contractors to avoid paying their time-and-a-half for overtime hours, as well as other benefits.
In the settlement agreement presented to Hudson in late December, the companies denied the allegations and any liability for “alleged failure to pay overtime compensation,” or that the workers were jointly employed by Capital Interior and the subcontractors it hired for the jobs.
“Specifically, there is a bona fide dispute as to whether Defendants were employers or joint employers and whether the workers were improperly classified as contractors who should have been paid overtime compensation,” lawyers for the workers said in a memorandum of support for the settlement.
A state investigation found a year ago that dozens of workers had been improperly classified as independent contractors and not fully compensated for overtime hours on the new General Assembly Building at the corner of East Broad and North Ninth streets in downtown Richmond.
The project is part of a $300 million overhaul of prominent state properties next to Capitol Square. The new General Assembly Building is expected to be completed this year and reopen for the legislative session scheduled to begin in January.
It was among 34 high-profile construction projects, private and public, that the lawsuit alleged had used subcontractors who used labor practices that violated federal wage and hour laws.
Last fall, then-Attorney General Mark Herring brought felony embezzlement charges against the two drywall subcontractors, alleging that through worker misclassification the companies had deprived workers of …….