Falsely certifying compliance with certain labor standards (Davis-Bacon Act) cheats workers out of a fair wage.
The Davis-Bacon Act, which dates to 1931, requires that workers for federal construction and other public works projects be paid at least the prevailing wages and benefits that are paid to tradesmen and women for similar projects in the same locality. The law requires that contractors and subcontractors performing services for the U.S. government pay wage rates established by the Secretary of Labor. Government contracts must include stipulations that the contractor and/or subcontractors will pay its employees such prevailing wages and requires them to provide the government with weekly payroll certifications of wages paid to each employee for that week as proof of compliance. Additionally, contractors are responsible for submitting wage certifications of payroll of all of their subcontractors.
Unfortunately, not all contractors follow the law. Some fail to submit the required wage certifications or even falsify the certifications by reporting to the government that they are paying wages higher than they actually are. Such falsehoods cheat workers out of a fair wage, result in illegal profits for the contractors, and violate federal law.
Examples of falsely certifying compliance with certain labor standards under the Davis-Bacon Act include the following:
In 2010, a federal court judge ordered treble damages against a contractor for violating the Davis-Bacon Act and False Claims Act. In U.S. ex rel. v. Circle Construction, LLC., the judge found that the construction contractor failed to ensure that its electrical subcontractor paid prevailing wages to electrical workers as required by Davis-Bacon and filed false certifications with the government. In granting summary judgment to the government, the court ordered the contractor to pay $1.6 million plus costs.
The case involved a construction project to erect buildings for the U.S. Army at the Fort Campbell military facility in Clarksville, Tennessee. The contractor submitted its weekly payroll certifications to the U.S. Army. A later review by representatives with the U.S. Department of Labor revealed 62 inaccuracies, including false payroll certifications.
The violations included the contractor’s failure to list its electrical subcontractor on its payroll, failure to submit a separate payroll certification for the electrical subcontractor, and failure to pay electricians the prevailing wages required by Davis-Bacon. The court also found that the government ultimately paid the contractor $553,807.71 for electrical work that violated Davis-Bacon.
Paying employees less than what they are entitled can give rise to False Claims Act lawsuits.
Whistleblowers with knowledge of contractors filing false claims in violation of the Davis-Bacon Act can help stop such wage abuses by pursuing False Claims Act cases on the government’s behalf. They also help to ensure that workers earn the fair wage to which they are entitled by law. The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act entitle whistleblowers to a portion of a resulting settlement or award for their willingness to take a stand against fraud.