When the private sector does not address a major issue, the public sector will often step into the vacuum and do it. The construction industry has been slow to embrace the principles of social responsibility and sustainable value, focusing instead on whatever it takes to be lowest bidder. As a consequence of this, government is adopting policies that reshape the rules for the industry.

Summer has arrived, and enthusiastic high school and college students are looking for summer internships.

Internships are not a problem if you are paying interns at least minimum wage, and are paying overtime hours (any hours worked over 40 in a work week) at one and one-half times their regular wage rate.

If you are considering unpaid internships, however, you may be exposing your company to a lawsuit.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, if you allow a person to perform services for you, in most instances that person must be paid and will be subject to minimum wage and overtime requirements.  There is a narrow exception for true unpaid internships, which must meet the following six criteria:   Read more » about Beware of Unpaid Internships

Texas’s capital city is economically booming in a way that’s almost unlike any other city in America, largely because of the region's technology industries.  Now, it is time for Austin to take the next step to ensure that the high-wage, high-tech economy also supports the creation of quality blue-collar jobs for working families.

That’s the argument laid out by Gregorio Casar, one of the “junkyard dogs” at the Workers Defense Project and now a candidate for Austin City Council.  He’s running for office at a chaotic time for Austin municipal elections now that the city has – as others have – moved to single-member districts that will allow each neighborhood to choose who represents them rather than having only at-large council members.  As many as six other candidates may be in the race with Casar before the vote this fall.   Read more » about Creation of Quality Construction Jobs Emerges as Issue in Austin Political Race

Editor’s note: In April, Professional Janitorial Services Executive Don Dyer delivered this powerful testimony to the Texas House Business and Industry Committee, which is studying what more lawmakers might need to do to combat the problem.  While we've repeatedly covered the issue and how it impacts construction, Dyer's testimony shed new light on just how prevalent this problem is in another industry.  Below, we're proud to share his testimony in full for our readers.

Our company has operated in the Texas janitorial industry since 1986 and we hold offices in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and Corpus Christi.  In our 28 years of existence we have watched the Texas economy grow by leaps and bounds and have enjoyed considerable success as we grew from a small company with a handful of cleaners to now over 2500 janitorial employees.  We attribute our success with providing superior service to our clients and treating our employees in an ethical and respectable manner.  However, during this same time we have also seen an alarming trend in the janitorial industry regarding the misclassification and unethical treatment of employees. Read more » about Janitorial Services Executive Speaks Out Against Worker Misclassification

In a marathon hearing held by Texas lawmakers on the issues of workers’ compensation and worker misclassification, representatives from businesses and labor came together to talk about what could be done to level the playing field for ethical companies and improve the lives of middle-class Texans.  But, there was also significant pushback from certain business interests which would like to keep things as they are.

The House Business and Industry Committee listened to about six hours of testimony on both issues, which some would argue are inextricably linked.  The House is holding hearings on various issues right now in preparation for the next regular legislative session, which will begin in January of 2015.  The point is to help shape whatever legislation might be filed next year.   Read more » about Texas House Hearing Could Signal Big Changes Ahead for Misclassification and Workers' Comp

Another industry group is entering the private exchange game to deal with the complexities of the Affordable Care Act.  The Wichita Business Journal has noted that the Associated General Contractors of America and Willis North America, the global risk advisor, are developing a private exchange to offer defined contribution plans to companies in the industry who are working to comply with the fluid requirements of the ACA or Obamacare.

According to the announcement, “The AGC Alternative”, as it is currently named, will offer its members health benefits or employees at a lower cost, and they will incur less administrative costs as well.   Read more » about AGC and Willis Team to Provide a Private Exchange to Deal with Obamacare

Workers who have been cheated out of their wages by unscrupulous employers in Houston are fighting back now that they have the tools to do so under the city's new wage theft ordinance. The city has received its first official complaints under the new law from some workers who say they were not receiving overtime pay that they are owed.

Via the Houston Chroncle's Lomi Kriel:

“Thirteen workers on Tuesday filed the first complaint under a new Houston ordinance aimed at preventing companies from stealing workers' wages.

“The workers, with the assistance of the nonprofit Faith and Justice Worker Center, filed documents with the city's inspector general alleging that their employer, Bradley Demolition and Construction, refused to pay them overtime. They say the company also failed to provide tax forms.   Read more » about First Wage Theft Complaints Filed Under Houston's New Law

On Tuesday, the Texas House will consider what more needs to be done on the issue of worker misclassification. Mike Beeter, President and CEO of BRI Roofing in Fort Worth is very concerned about the practice, which has been called a “cancer” in the construction industry. We are pleased to publish his open letter to the members of the committee looking into it.

Honorable members of the Texas House Committee on Business and Industry,

I am writing today as a business owner concerned about a serious challenge facing not only my industry, but society at large. The problem is so immense that it will not be fixed without ethical companies as well as government joining together to stop the fraud known simply as “worker misclassification.” I am very glad to see your committee is considering what to do about the problem. Below, you will see my thoughts as to the real risk associated with keeping the status quo. The issue is complex and I am providing you with many details to consider. But, the bottom line is that worker misclassification is fraud, plain and simple. Read more » about An open letter to Texas Lawmakers on Worker Misclassification

A Texas House Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue of worker misclassification and what more the state may need to do to combat the problem that is particularly rampant in the construction industry.  The House Business and Industry Committee will take testimony on the implementation of a limited crackdown that was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry last year.  The hearing is slated for Tuesday, April 22 at the state capitol.

The official announcement of the public hearing says that the panel of lawmakers will be looking into “the issue of misclassifying employees as independent contractors on workers, employers, income tax withholding, and the unemployment insurance system.  And the review of current statutory deterrents, including those required by HB 2015.”  That bill just took effect on the first of this year.

As our readers are well aware, the practice of employee misclassification happens when companies pretend their workers are independent subcontractors when, by law, those workers should be properly classified as employees.   Read more » about Misclassification Hearing is Set in the Texas House

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