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Federal Court: Massachusetts Employer Must Pay $438,000 for Unpaid Overtime

On December 20th, 2021, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced that a Massachusetts contractor has been ordered to pay $438,000 to resolve unpaid overtime claims. JKA Construction Inc. will also pay punitive damages on the account of the willful nature of the violations. In this blog post, our construction industry wage and hour lawyers provide a more thorough review of the enforcement action against the Massachusetts contractor. 

Allegations: Massachusetts Construction Company Willfully Failed to Pay Overtime

JKA Construction Inc. is a residential, commercial, and industrial construction company with headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. DOL initiated a comprehensive investigation into the workplace practices of this employer after learning of allegations of overtime violations. Between 2017 and 2020, the DOL determined that JKA Construction improperly failed to pay overtime wages to at least 250 workers. The DOL assessed that the violations were willful. Specifically, the construction industry employer allegedly: 

  1. Knowingly misclassified certain construction workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying overtime wages; and
  2. Paid the wages of certain construction workers through a separate company to allow for straight-time pay instead of overtime pay. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is clear: All employers covered by the federal statute are required to pay non-overtime exempt employees time-and-a-half when they clock more than 40 hours in a workweek. A federal court ruled in favor of the DOL in this case. The Massachusetts based construction company must pay $438,000 in back wages to 250 employees. 

What to Know About the FLSA and Willful Overtime Violations 

Beyond the back overtime wages, the employer has also been ordered to pay $64,750 in civil fines. In this case, the DOL alleged—and the federal court agreed—that the overtime violations were willful. A willful FLSA violation occurs when an employer knowingly and intentionally disregards their obligations under federal wage and hour law. The DOL emphasized that JKA Construction Inc. knowingly misclassified workers and intentionally made payments through a second company to avoid the FLSA requirements. 

Employers that willfully violate the FLSA can face additional penalties. To start, federal regulators have the authority to pursue civil financial penalties against companies and organizations that knowingly/intentionally violate the FLSA’s overtime requirement. Further, an employee who was the victim of a willful overtime violation has an extra year to take legal action. The statute of limitations for most unpaid overtime claims under the FLSA is two years. However, the statute of limitations is three years for cases involving a willful violation. 

Contact Our Unpaid Overtime Lawyers for a Confidential Consultation

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our wage and hour lawyers have deep experience advocating for workers in the construction industry. If you or your loved one was denied full and proper overtime pay, we can help. Give us a call or send us a direct message to arrange your strictly private case review. Our employment law firm has offices in Springfield, Northampton, Hartford, and New Haven and we represent construction workers throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut.