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Davis, California

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Student housing subcontractors fined for labor violations

California State Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet ordered two housing subcontractors working on the Tercero Housing Project to pay $1.3 million for improperly paying wages on Aug. 10 – two months after previous subcontractors committed similar labor violations.

The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) investigated and found that the Nevada-based subcontractors Kings Drywall Inc. and JL Home Development failed to report workers on certified payroll reports, pay overtime and provide accurate deduction statements for its 149 workers.

This included failure to pay fringe benefits, such as travel, and inflating worker pay when they were actually paid below required pay rates.

“My office is committed to providing a level playing field for all contractors who comply with the law,” said Bradstreet in a press release. “Contractors simply cannot cut corners and intentionally underpay their workers, depriving those employees of the money they earned. I believe the action my office is taking against Kings Drywall and JL Home will continue to serve as a deterrent to any company that is thinking about undermining its employees or the wage laws.”

The subcontractors were working on the UC Davis Tercero II dormitory housing which houses 600 first-year students and resident advisors on the corner of La Rue Drive and Dairy Road. They are also LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – certified by the organization at the gold standard level.

Trade groups concerned with potential labor violations occurring at the site contacted the university. The campus collected the certified payroll records from the subcontractors and sent them to the DIR.

This follows previous violations committed by Russell/Thompson and 84 Lumber, which the DIR fined $1.5 million for not paying the proper wages for 79 workers. All four subcontractors, which worked on different parts of construction, worked under Brown Construction – the general contractor that completed four construction projects with the university.

In both cases, the DIR issued civil wage and penalty assessments to obtain the money owed to the workers.

“The contractors have not explained the violations but Brown Construction, 84 Lumber and Russell/Thompson have all filed a request for review but have not submitted any detailed information,” said Krisann Chasarik, communication specialist at the DIR in an e-mail interview.

She also added that the DIR did not have a record of all of Brown’s hiring of subcontractors but that the subcontractors had no prior egregious violations.

Although the incidents may have raised tension at the building site, the project met its deadline for incoming students.

Picketers protested against unfair pay at the job site in June, according to a UC Davis Dateline news release.

“At one point several days were lost,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Clayton Halliday, campus architect. “But the contractor was then obligated to accelerate to work on weekends to recover from that and bring on the forces they needed.”

He also added the building project deadline extended from mid-August to mid-September owing to design changes that often occur in construction projects. The project’s final tab of $24.67 million -$17 million under the estimated cost – came as a pleasant surprise for the university.

“We’re not alone here,” Halliday said. “Many other UCs are getting competitive bids and coming under budget. It was significantly less than expected compared to prices prior to recession and even less than good bids under the recession.”

LESLIE TSAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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