Marlins stadium construction crews waiting for back pay
03/22/2013 12:25 AM
03/22/2013 3:46 AM
Dozens of workers who worked around the clock on the construction of Marlins stadium are still waiting for thousands of dollars in back pay.
The contractor that hired them acknowledges that it owes at least $67,000 to some of the workers and has said that there was an error in the payroll.
A county inspector had noticed since 2011 that the company was not paying the correct wages to workers, who reported that they felt intimidated. However, the dispute has still not been resolved and the former employees say they feel deceived.
“Now, when I go by the stadium I don’t even look at it,” said Yony Campbell, who worked with his father for more than a year in the structure and the finishing of the Marlins Park. “It’s infuriating to know that they did not pay fairly to the people who built the stadium.”
The back-pay problem adds to the controversy surrounding the Marlins project, which received more than $500 million in taxpayer money for building the stadium and parking garages that opened a year ago and which in part prompted the fall of a county mayor.
Those who supported the project justified the public funding because the construction would create hundreds of jobs for the area residents with wages established by the county.
In September, more than 40 workers filed a civil lawsuit against the subcontractor company, AGC Consulting Civil Engineers and General Contractors Inc., alleging that they did not receive the wages for the work done and that they were not paid for overtime.
The workers, who are represented by the firm Rubenstein Law, filed the lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They have also sued the general contractor, Hunt-Moss and its subsidiaries, as well as subcontractor Keenan, Hopkins, Schmidt and Stowell Contractors (KHS&S), which hired AGC.
According to the lawsuit, the workers were wrongly classified as general laborers instead of being identified by their specialty titles, which convey higher salaries under county codes.
“So they received a lot less money per hour than they should have,” said attorney Matthew J. Allen, who presented the case.
Under Miami-Dade codes of salaries and benefits the minimum wage for a general laborers is $18.42 an hour. Carpenters, joiners and lathers must be paid $28.02 an hour.
Public records show that some of the AGC employers were paid between $14.50 and $16 an hour despite doing more specialized work.
In August 2011, county inspector Alberto Morales began documenting irregularities after visiting the stadium during construction, according to documents obtained by El Nuevo Herald.
Some employees complained of mistreatment. Others reported retaliation. For example, after providing information to Morales, some were fired. A few were later rehired after the inspector inquired about the firings.
Many visited Morales in his office to show him copies of their paychecks, which, according to the inspector’s reports, did not match the amount of hours they worked.
Brian Barakat, an attorney for AGC, acknowledged that there had been problems in the classification of workers. He said that several employees performed jobs that fell under different classifications.
“AGC remains committed to making sure each employee is paid exactly what they earned,” Barakat said.
In 2011 Morales repeatedly asked AGC to send the records of hours that the men worked.
After comparing documents and conducting several interviews with the laborers, county officials concluded that the company owed $63,823 to 26 former employees. But in a letter Barakat sent to the county on March 7, the company acknowledges that in fact, according to their calculations, it actually owes $67,378 to 26 workers due to misclassification.
However Barakat denied that AGC failed to pay its employees for any regular hours or overtime worked.
Patrick Delano, of Hunt Construction Group, said through a press release that they are making sure that subcontractors pay what they owe.
During the last six months of construction the construction companies sprinted the works to be able to open in time for Major League 2012 season opener.
Pedro Reyes, a Dominican worker who hardly made it home on time to get some sleep during those days, knows this well. But his paycheck did not reflect the hours worked.
“My wife used to get very mad at me because I spent the entire day working for hours and hours,” Reyes said. “Yet the paycheck wasn’t even enough to pay the rent.”
Several workers said that they stayed at the stadium because the industry was very slow and they at least had a secure job there.
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