The federal government spends billions of dollars each year in contracts awarded to private companies. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly for some), many of these companies defraud the government by submitting false claims to the government regarding these contracts or by failing to comply with their contractual obligations to the government. For example, in the construction industry, the government awards contracts to private companies for the construction of public buildings or the remodeling of such buildings. With these contracts come contractual obligations for construction companies, and their subcontractors, to comply with federal laws that provide protections for construction workers. When these construction companies fail to comply with federal laws or otherwise defraud the federal government, workers may have the right blow the whistle on such illegal activity and recover money for their whistleblowing.
One of the contractual requirements that often comes with federal construction contracts is the requirement to follow the Davis Bacon Act, which requires construction companies to pay its workers prevailing wages. The Davis Bacon Act applies to contractors and subcontractors performing work on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, repair, or remodeling of public buildings. The Davis Bacon Act requires contractors and subcontractors to pay their workers prevailing wages, determined by the United States Department of Labor. More information on the Davis Bacon Act may be found on the U.S. Department of Labor website here.
When a construction contractor or subcontractor fails to pay its workers prevailing wages pursuant to the Davis Bacon Act, a worker has the right to recover such prevailing wages. In addition, if the contractor or subcontractor is making false claims to the federal government about its compliance with the Davis Bacon Act, a worker may be able to file a false claims act (or “qui tam”) lawsuit. In such a lawsuit, if the Court determines that a contractor or subcontractor has made false claims to the federal government, a contractor or subcontractor may be required to pay money back to the federal government and may even be penalized for the false statements. In such a lawsuit, an eligible employee blowing the whistle on such false claims may also be entitled to part of the government’s recovery as a reward for blowing the whistle.
Therefore, construction workers who are not being paid a prevailing wage pursuant to the Davis Bacon Act or are not being paid proper wages should contact a Texas employment lawyer immediately to determine their rights under the law and to inquire about their ability to recover unpaid wages and possibly file a whistleblower qui tam lawsuit. As the law is very complex and tricky about these rights and who can file a lawsuit, it is my recommendation to contact an employment law specialist immediately. One misstep in the process can forfeit an employee’s rights in this area.
In addition to the Davis Bacon Act and the False Claims Act, there are whistleblower protections for construction workers who report a violation of law in conjunction with a project funded by the Recovery Act. In conjunction with the Recovery Act of 2010, which provided stimulus funds for building projects throughout Texas and the country, Congress passed a new whistleblower law which protects employees who blow the whistle on illegal activities by contractors and subcontractors receiving funds from the Recovery Act. If you have worked on such a construction project and have suffered retaliation for blowing the whistle on illegal acts, you should also contact a Texas employment law specialist as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Lastly, please remember that this post and the posts in this blog are not legal advice, and can’t be for the reasons posted in my disclaimer on my website. If you need legal advice for your employment situation, you should contact an employment attorney who can discuss your case and provide you with advice that applies to your situation.