A.G. Schneiderman Announces Contractor Will Pay $500,000 For Underpaying Employees On Public Construction Projects In NYC
In Addition To Paying $500K For Wage Underpayments, Hirani And Sen’s Labor Practices Will Be Under Ongoing Review By AG’s Office
Schneiderman: My Office Will Aggressively Pursue Employers Who Seek Out Public Contracts, Then Violate Labor Standards
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the resolution of an investigation into the labor practices of husband and wife Jitendra and Sarita Hirani, and their companies, Hirani Construction Management, Hirani Consulting, Inc., and Sen Construction Corp. From 2005 until 2008, the companies obtained seven large construction contracts located in New York City, while failing to pay employees working on those projects the required prevailing wage. As part of the settlement with the Attorney General, Hirani and Sen have agreed to pay $500,000 in restitution for underpaid workers who reported the violations.
"There are strict rules when taxpayer dollars are used to pay private companies for public projects, but this company violated those rules, and now they will pay the price," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Our state will not allow public funds to subsidize substandard workplaces or sit by idly as corporations profit by illegally shortchanging hardworking men and women. We will aggressively pursue employers who seek out public contracts yet ignore labor standards for vulnerable workers."
New York's prevailing wage law seeks to ensure that government contractors pay wages that are comparable to the local norms for a given trade. The law requires an hourly rate for construction work performed for public agencies that is well above the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, along with benefits, and also higher wages for overtime, weekends, or work at night.
Complaints of significant underpayments in this case were referred to the Attorney General's Office by the New York City School Construction Authority Office of the Inspector General, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Investigation. Those agencies in 2007 received complaints by 11 employees reporting underpayments at three Parks Department projects and four School Construction Authority projects. The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Hirani and Sen employees who performed construction work on those projects earned far less than the required hourly prevailing wage.
A former worker said of the settlement, "We are so happy and thankful that we will be paid what we are owed and that the Attorney General's agreement will help make sure that in the future other Hirani and Sen employees will be paid their wages on time."
In addition to the $500,000 payment, the settlement requires Hirani and Sen to provide the Office of Attorney General with advance notice about any bids to perform work requiring payment of prevailing wage in New York State and to provide documentation showing payment of prevailing wage for any such accepted bids. It also bars Hirani and Sen from retaliating against employees who cooperated with the investigation or employees who collect wages under the settlement. The Attorney General’s office will continue to review Hirani and Sen's employment practices for the next three years.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the New York City School Construction Authority Office of the Inspector General, including Gerard McEnroe, OIG Criminal Counsel, Investigators Kevin Kelly and Christopher Baldassarri and forensic accountant John Pezzulli for their work on this case. He also thankedthe New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Investigation for their cooperation in this matter.
The case was handled by Section Chief Andrew J. Elmore, under the supervision of Terri Gerstein, Bureau Chief of the Labor Bureau and Janet Sabel, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice.