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Construction workers sue supervisor for unpaid wages

Under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Act, employees have the right to be paid on time. Employees can generally pursue lawsuits in order to recover any unpaid wages from their employers after a paycheck is at least two weeks late. In some industries, however, it can be very difficult for employees to recover wages. This may be true in a field like construction, where there are numerous companies and supervisors involved in a project.

In a recent case in Maryland, four construction workers sued their supervisor for unpaid wages and overtime after their paychecks were withheld, but an appeals court ruled the supervisor was not technically an employer and thus he could not be held responsible.

The case stems back to 2007 when the four workers were hired for two interior renovation projects. The man who owned the construction company supervised one of the projects, at a restaurant, while that man's father supervised the second project, at an apartment complex.

That same year, the owner of the company stopped paying at least four of the company's workers. The owner's father told the workers that they would be paid by the owner when he obtained money from some other projects.

The workers sued both men personally and the construction company under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Act as well as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The court ordered the company and the company's owner to pay damages, but found that the other man was not an employer.

To be considered an employer under either law one must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Must have authority to hire and fire workers
  • Must control work schedules and employment conditions
  • Must decide rate and method of paying employees
  • Must maintain employment records

It can be very difficult in many cases to recover unpaid wages. Those who are victims of wage theft, however, should discuss their rights and options with an employment law attorney.

Source: HL.BLR.com, "Was supervisor an 'employer' under FLSA, Maryland law?" March 21, 2013

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