Payroll fraud (also called worker misclassification and workplace fraud) is the illegal practice of designating an employee as a "1099 worker" or an independent contractor. Unscrupulous employers do this to avoid paying payroll taxes, unemployment tax, or workers’ compensation insurance and are therefore able to submit lower bids for projects, undercutting responsible contractors. Several states have already passed laws to penalize those who cheat workers and taxing agencies in this way, and two bills are currently being considered which would provide federal legislation to end this practice and that of wage theft. They are The Fair Playing Field Act, introduced by Senator Kerry and a number of co-sponsors and The Employee Misclassification Prevention Act.

The news team at WFAA Television in Dallas/Fort Worth has done an oustanding job of highlighting the problem of worker misclassification. In their latest installment, reporter Byron Harris focuses on the story of Belen Valasquez:

"He has a vague memory of the construction fall that paralyzed him.

"I think I fell with my head doubled over," he said in Spanish. "I felt like I couldn't breathe. I got the wind knocked out of me."

Velasquez faces a lifetime of medical care that could total more than $11 million. He is now a tetrapelgic: He can't move his legs, and can barely move his arms.   Read more » about WFAA Report: Independent contracting costs workers and taxpayers [VIDEO]

The following article was authored by L.M. Sixel and originally published in the Houston Chronicle.

Employees and taxpayers foot most of the bill when workers get injured on the job, a new report from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration finds.

The cost-shifting stems from a combination of factors including an erosion of health and income benefits that no longer cover the cost of recovery, widespread under-reporting of on-the-job injuries and the growing practice of misclassifying employees so they don't qualify for workers compensation insurance, said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.    Read more » about Workers comp fails injured workers, Labor Dept. says

In an explosive investigation that drew the attention of many average Texans over the weekend, WFAA Television in Dallas/Fort Worth put a bright spotlight on the problem of worker misclassification. It’s a problem the Construction Citizen team has exposed for years and we greatly appreciate any time other media outlets take up the cause as well.

This most recent outrage came to light after three men working as independent subcontractors underneath Thanksgiving Tower in Dallas died in a horrific accident. But, the companies involved have denied damages to their families. How can that be? From the story:

Although they were little more than laborers, the State of Texas allows them to be called "independent contractors." That means they can get no workers compensation, and have no federal income tax or Social Security tax deducted from their paychecks.

Three independent contractors' deaths at Thanksgiving Tower are the subject of legal action, but the families of the three men will receive no compensation for their deaths. Byron Harris has more on the "invisible workers."   Read more » about DFW Television Report Puts Spotlight on Worker Misclassification

Over the years, the Construction Citizen team has put a bright spotlight on the myriad problems caused by worker misclassification. Those difficulties continue to mount while Texas lawmakers do very little about it, much to the frustration of ethical companies that cannot compete with cheaters, many single mothers who are denied child support payments, conservative activists upset about illegal immigration, and workers’ rights advocates who believe in a better standard of living for those who toil in the hot Texas sun.

Worker misclassification is one of the major underlying problems when it comes to fixing all those challenges.

If you're unfamiliar, worker misclassification is a fancy term for cheating on payroll. That’s why labor activists call it “payroll fraud.” It happens when a boss pretends their worker is an “independent subcontractor” instead of an employee even when, by law, the person should be on the books as an employee.   Read more » about Cheating by Unethical Employers Reaches Crisis Levels While Texas Lawmakers Sit on Their Hands

I love the construction industry and I speak from experience when telling you it has to be saved from itself. Since 1938, our family business has helped build the monuments of this city and this state. More importantly, our companies – like many others over the past 75 years – have helped tens of thousands of hard-working Americans enjoy an honorable blue collar, middle class standard of living. But, now our middle class is threatened like never before.

When I graduated from Texas A&M in 1969, after serving my active duty in the Marine Corps Reserves, I joined the local carpenters union as a drywall mechanic. Wages and benefits were very good and it was indeed a quality, middle class occupation. The non-union tradespeople enjoyed the same kind of lifestyle. We all received good hourly pay, overtime, worker’s compensation insurance protection and had employment taxes deducted and paid. There was a bond between company and worker.    Read more » about How the Construction Industry Can Help Save the American Middle Class

It has been almost a year since I became the executive director of Construction Career Collaborative (C3). While I have learned a great deal during that short period of time, my biggest take away is that everyone with whom I have spoken agrees that the issue of creating a sustainable craft workforce is critical to the future of the commercial construction industry and all of those connected to it.

For many trades, the complexity of this issue is the challenge (lack of craft and safety training, misclassification of craft workers as subcontractors thereby avoiding payment of overtime and payroll taxes such as social security, and not providing employee benefits or workers’ compensation insurance coverage, all in the pursuit of low bid and covered up by a seeming limitless supply of undocumented workers who labor in the shadows, which depresses wages). All of which is why C3 needs the leadership and support of a critical mass of organizations in the A/E/C industry in order overcome it. We all must recognize that there is no quick resolution to a workforce problem that has been compounding itself for more than 30 years and that will require perseverance and sheer numbers of people who believe in the cause to correct it.    Read more » about Achieving Critical Mass

A report from a bipartisan panel of Texas lawmakers says companies that pretend their employees are independent subcontractors are undermining free markets and encouraging illegal immigration, among other serious problems. The practice of worker misclassification, as Construction Citizen has reported many times, happens when an employer intentionally skirts the law by paying workers as independent subcontractors when they meet the legal definition of employees and should be paid as such.

Preventing workers from being paid as employees denies them basic protections and costs taxpayers millions each year because employers are avoiding payroll taxes on that labor. Employers who follow the law are investing in a sustainable workforce, which is undermined by worker misclassification. Many of those ethical employers have urged lawmakers to do more to contain what they’ve called “a cancer” in the heart of the construction industry.

So, the Texas House Business and Industry Committee this past year took an in-depth look at the issue, including testimony from construction industry leaders, labor advocates and others who are united in combating misclassification. Read more » about Texas House Panel finds that worker misclassification “compromises free markets” and promotes “lawlessness”

There’s almost nothing partisan or ideological about trying to stop companies from cheating taxpayers and their workers, which is exactly what happens when some firms misclassify their employees. As our readers know, worker misclassification happens when a company pretends its employees are subcontractors with the intent of avoiding payroll taxes and benefits like health insurance. Unions call it “payroll fraud.” Many of us just call it cheating, plain and simple.

The fact that this is a bipartisan issue became extra clear this past week following our report on new efforts in the Texas Legislature to try to rein in the practice, which has rightly been called “a scourge” and “a cancer” in the construction industry. It happens in other industries as well but it is especially rampant in construction.

Previous legislative attempts to deal with this in Texas have had mixed success. Now, a new bill has been filed in the Texas House.    Read more » about Conservatives and Liberals Alike Embrace Efforts to Crack Down on Worker Misclassification in Texas

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