ECA Newsletter 4-25-19
An Ounce of Prevention
About 15-18 years ago, when I still owned Kirkwood Bly, Inc., we received a notice from the Department of Labor that there was a labor claim against us on one of our projects. This was a shocker as we prided ourselves in trying to take good and fair care of our employees. Here is the short version of what the violation was claimed to be:
We were building a stormwater handling facility in Arcata, CA (approximately a $17 mil project) that had a single lane driveway/road that was about 300 yards long that accessed it from our laydown yard. There was no room at the site for parking so workers had to park at the laydown yard and hike up the 300 yards to the site. At our safety tailgate meetings, one of the guys asked if there was a better way for us (the workers) to get up to the jobsite at 7am to start work other than walking up the hill with their tool bags. The Project Manager did what he was supposed to do and called the home office to see what options were available. After doing some research, the following was suggested:
1. Workers could get dropped off by their spouses, girlfriends, or buddies at the top of the hill to go to work, or
2. Workers could walk up the hill after parking below, and the 5 to 10-minute walk was on their own time, or
3. One of the workers with a pickup could give the guys a ride up the private driveway by them piling into the back of his truck (not a company truck) and then the driver would drive down, park his truck, and walk up.
4. The Project Manager was to make it clear that none of these were a requirement, the only requirement was the guys showed up at the job site ready to work at 7am.
Well, as sometimes happens, the message got muddled and a labor foreman with a company pickup made his truck available at 6:45 am and gave the guys a ride up to the worksite. The home office did not know, and the PM thought he was doing the right thing because he had all the guys sign a form that said they understood they were riding up for their own convenience and were not required to ride in the company truck.
All was well until layoffs at the end of the project began. Some enterprising business agent called one of the laid off workers (we were non-union, of course) and suggested he could get some back pay if he filed a claim for back pay for riding in the truck. The worker did, and there was the claim to the Labor Commissioner.
To make a long story short, we paid back wages and fines in excess of $350,000 for that little misunderstanding.
I bring this to your attention so that the attached memo from our legal friends at Smith Dollar will have more meaning than otherwise. Sometimes an employer thinks he/she is doing the right thing, but the devil is usually in the details. I suggest you all review how you are paying your crews for the “questionable” times like when they pick up something from the yard, when they stop off and pick up a fitting at the pipe supplier or when they go buy a few fittings at the home depot for use the next day. Your employees are usually not disgruntled and going to sign a claim until such time as they are laid off.
An ounce of prevention?
Click here for Smith Dollar PC’s article.
That’s All Folks