PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced today that she is increasing efforts to protect Rhode Island workers against employers who violate labor laws, including underpaying wages.
A new Workplace Fraud Unit within the Department of Labor and Training's Workplace Regulation and Safety division recently reached a settlement with a company that admitted to violating worker protection laws. Cardoso Construction LLC agreed to pay more than $730,000 in back wages, interest and penalties. This is the first significant action of this new unit.
"Everyone should be able to make it in Rhode Island, and workers should get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," Raimondo said. "We're going to go after companies that cheat because breaking the law not only hurts workers, it also hurts companies that follow the rules, pay proper wages and help grow the Rhode Island economy. By ensuring fairness, we can expand economic opportunity for employers and workers alike."
The Governor's four-point action plan includes:
1. Using existing funding to create a new Workplace Fraud Unit to focus DLT's efforts on dishonest companies
2. Coordinating state agency efforts and pooling resources to conduct investigations and bring enforcement actions with maximum impact
3. Enforcing worker protection laws to the fullest extent and spotlighting businesses that cheat
4. Fostering compliance with the law through employer outreach and education
DLT officials found the violation on a drywall job at the University of Rhode Island. After investigating, they determined that the company should have characterized the workers as "employees," but they were mischaracterized as "independent contractors."
When employers misclassify employees as independent contractors, they harm workers, hurt other companies that play by the rules, and cheat taxpayers. By misclassifying workers, companies:
• Deny employees access to critical benefits such as Unemployment Insurance (UI), workers' compensation insurance, overtime pay, and family and medical leave;
• Hurt law-abiding employers who play by the rules but are unfairly under-bid for work; and
• Cheat taxpayers by lowering tax revenues and robbing UI and workers' compensation funds of much-needed dollars.
The employer will pay a total of $351,812 in back wages to the workers, pay DLT an identical penalty of $351,812, and pay a fine of $27,000 - $1,000 per worker - for violating the state misclassification law.
"It's only fair to repay the employees who were underpaid for months on the job, and this agreement will achieve that," said Raimondo. "Everyone must compete by the same rules on public projects in Rhode Island, and this settlement is sending the clear message that we will be cracking down on abuse."
"Following the same rules as everyone else is not a barrier to success," said DLT Director Scott Jensen. "We will continue to protect our community's investment in our workforce, and we remain committed to helping Rhode Island companies grow their businesses and play by the rules. I also applaud the work of the Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification, who along with the new Workplace Fraud unit, moved this case forward."
The DLT Director leads this Task Force, which was established in 2014, and consists of DLT, the Office of the Attorney General, Division of Taxation, Department of Business Regulation, Department of Public Safety and Workers' Compensation Court.