Hazardous Materials Laborers Allege Exploitation of Wage and Hour Law Against P.W. Stephens Environmental, Inc.
A federal collective and class action lawsuit was filed today on behalf of laborers against P.W. Stephens Environmental, Inc. (P.W. Stephens), alleging failure to pay minimum wage and overtime under federal and California laws, among other wage and hour claims. The named plaintiff Aned Lopez and the putative class are represented by the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center and Leonard Carder LLP. P.W. Stephens employs hundreds of workers and has locations in Fremont/Hayward, Fresno, Huntington Beach, San Diego, and Sacramento.
Mr. Lopez performed hazardous remediation work, including removing asbestos, lead paint, and mold from residential and commercial buildings and completing related construction work for P.W. Stephens – which according to the company’s website is the largest residential abatement contractor in California – between July 2011 and July 2013. Mr. Lopez contends that he and other laborers were not paid for all the hours they worked. The complaint alleges that P.W. Stephens required its laborers to report to its facilities by 7:00 a.m. but only started paying them at 8:00 a.m. – a practice that Mr. Lopez believes has subsequently changed. Similarly, the complaint alleges that P.W. Stephens required its laborers to ride in company vehicles to and from jobsites, but stopped paying them for the time spent returning from the jobsite. In addition, Mr. Lopez also alleges that P.W. Stephens failed to provide reporting time pay, meal periods on multiple-assignment days (and second meal periods on workdays that exceeded 10 hours), and final wages at the time of separation.
“Mr. Lopez and his co-workers performed such a dangerous job simply to provide for their families,” said Carole Vigne, Director of LAS-ELC’s Wage Protection Program and one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. “An employer cannot decide which hours it will compensate, and which hours it will not. At minimum, all workers should be paid for all the hours they worked.”
“I do not want what happened to me to happen to other workers, including those who are entering the workforce . . . especially immigrant workers who might not know their rights,” says Mr. Lopez. Mr. Lopez is but one of the many Latino immigrants who represent nearly one quarter of construction industry workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mr. Lopez adds: “I am doing this for justice.”
A recent study published in May 2015 confirmed that violation of wage-and-hour law, more commonly known as wage theft, is rampant in the residential construction industry. The construction industry is projected to be among those with the largest expected employment growth this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “With this lawsuit, we hope to bring attention to the violations that occur in the industry and bring change to how construction workers are paid,” added Giselle Olmedo, an attorney at Leonard Carder LLP.