New Horizons sued by Union over wage compliance on big project

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on December 2nd, 2013

Laborers’ International Union sues New Horizons  Enterprises LLC for wage noncompliance on major construction project

The Laborers’ International Union of North America is suing New Horizons Enterprises LLC for allegedly failing to comply with prevailing wage laws during the construction of the Commonwealth Project – a $60 million redevelopment in Kansas City’s Midtown — that includes a total of 12 apartment buildings with 600 apartments.

New Horizons, a subcontractor for the project brought on workers to remove asbestos. But court papers allege that New Horizons did not pay the required wages for the work that was done. Many employees are alleging they were paid only $17.50 an hour. According to the petition, semiskilled laborers, which include workers hired to remove asbestos, are required to be paid $26.55 in addition to fringe benefits of an additional $13.75 — a total of $40.30.

Allegedly, when the workers complained, “New Horizons retaliated against some of these employees, firing at least one of them.”

But New Horizons contends that contracts with the workers state that the work was not prevailing wage work.

New Horizon’s attorney claims wage dispute is without merit

Kim Seten, the attorney representing New Horizons said in a statement that, “New Horizons pays its employees fairly and complies with all applicable laws, including Missouri’s Prevailing Wage and Minimum Wage laws. New Horizons intends to vigorously defend itself against these meritless allegations. Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 246 is not an appropriate party to any such action and has no standing to bring such a lawsuit.”

In another statement, Seten said, “New Horizons anticipates that the lawsuit will be dismissed quickly due to baseless allegations.”

E.E. Keenan, an attorney representing plaintiffs said that because public tax credits were used for the Commonwealth Project, Missouri law stipulates that workers must meet prevailing wage laws.

“Nobody can contract around the law.” Keenan went on to say that typically unions rely on the government to pursue resolution of these types of conflicts, but an “underutilized” portion of Missouri law allows private parties to bring litigation.

“We still see the government’s enforcement as very valuable,” Keenan said. “But we’re stepping in as a movement and directly enforcing these wages as well.”

The class includes an estimated 50 employees that are seeking double the unpaid prevailing and overtime wages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorney costs.

Peter K. Levine
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