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Painter to Pay $500K in Wage Case

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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A New Hampshire painting contractor accused of underpaying more than 150 employees and retaliating against one of them has been ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in wages, damages and penalties.

On Aug. 4, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it had resolved a long-running wage dispute against Nashua-based contractor Kevin Corriveau Painting Inc., and its officers and agents.

Dept of Labor building
Ed Brown / public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The case was pursued by the Department of Labor, which obtained a consent judgment against the painting contractor and its officers and agents.

Founded in 1997, Corriveau Painting, also known as Corriveau Contracting, offers commercial and residential painting, remodeling and renovation services in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Case Details

The case stems from October 2012, when the department filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements.

An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found that the defendants were requiring employees to falsify their own time cards, according to the complaint.

Employees were also paid on a “piece work” basis, rather than the required minimum wage, according to the allegations.

In some instances, employees were paid in “off-payroll cash,” the complaint alleged.

In August 2014, following revelations of ongoing violations, the department filed an amended complaint and obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the painting company from “intimidating, retaliating or discriminating against current or former employees involved in the investigation and lawsuit.”

Intimidation Tactics

The amended complaint accused company owner and president Kevin Corriveau, vice president Brian Corriveau, and treasurer Sharon Mercuri of "willfully and repeatedly" violating federal wage laws by underpaying employees.

The department also alleged that former employees of the contractor told the Wage and Hour Division that the Corriveaus’ attorney, Jeffrey Levinson, had “harassed and intimidated workers into signing affidavits, which contained false statements."

inspector
©iStock.com / lisafx

The settlement requires that the painting company hire a qualified, independent monitor to review records, inspect working conditions and interview employees confidentially.

"The defendants provided the affidavits to the department during the discovery phase of the litigation to convince the department and the court that no violations had been committed," the Department of Labor said in a release.

The complaint further said that the defendants "intimidated and harassed employees and former employees with threats" related to their expected testimony in the case and sought to "alter their expected testimony ... by actively obstructing their efforts to communicate" with federal authorities.

Employees were "coached" and "coerced" into making and signing false statements, the suit alleged.

Resolution Reached

The consent judgment reached in the case orders the Corriveaus and Mercuri to pay $427,300 (back wages and liquidated damages) to 157 employees who were denied payment of overtime and/or minimum wage.

One worker who was retaliated against will receive $10,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, the federal authorities said.

The order also prohibits the defendants and Levinson from violating the FLSA anti-retaliation provisions and further prevents them from threatening to report any employee to immigration authorities to inhibit employees’ rights under the FLSA.

painter
©iStock.com / varuj

"Underpaying employees not only penalizes workers economically, it also undercuts law-abiding employers who pay their workers a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," said Daniel Cronin, the Wage and Hour Divisions district director in Manchester, NH.

It also requires defendants Kevin Corriveau and Kevin Corriveau Painting to hire, for at least three years, a qualified, independent monitor who will review records, inspect working conditions and interview employees confidentially. The monitor will report to the department on the defendants' compliance with the FLSA and the court judgment.

The company did not respond Monday (Aug. 10) to request for comment on the judgment.

Additional Judgment Terms

According to the DOL, the judgment also requires the defendants to:

  • Pay $62,700 in civil money penalties to the department;
  • Maintain accurate records of all hours worked and use a single payroll system, under which employees will be paid by payroll check; and
  • Provide employees and managers with training in English, Spanish and Portuguese on the FLSA's minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and anti-retaliation requirements, employees' rights and the terms of the consent judgment.

The judgment also prohibits the defendants from:

  • Withholding payment of back wages or damages;
  • Demanding, keeping or accepting any part of back wages and damages to be paid; and
  • Failing to cooperate with the department in any investigation.

‘Extensive Corrective Action’

"This judgment commits the defendants to extensive corrective action to pay their employees and properly advise them of their legal rights," said Daniel Cronin, the Wage and Hour Division's district director in Manchester.

"Underpaying employees not only penalizes workers economically, it also undercuts law-abiding employers who pay their workers a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."

Warning to Employers

Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England, warned employers to pay close attention to the enforcement steps and judgment terms in this case.

“The department has committed to ensuring that employees are paid in accordance with the law and shielded from employer actions intended to stifle their voice in the workplace.

“Employers who fail to pay properly will face the obligation to pay both back wages and liquidated damages; those who retaliate will face the need to pay compensatory and punitive damages, as was required here," he said.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

   

Tagged categories: Commercial contractors; Department of Labor; Enforcement; Government; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Painting Contractors; Residential Construction; Worker training

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (8/11/2015, 8:32 AM)

The penalties for this employer are tiny compared to the amount of money they defrauded or intimidated out of the employees. Defraud $427k, pay only $73k in penalties and fines, plus the wages you should have paid anyway. Ridiculous. The penalties should be 2-3x as much as the amount defrauded.


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