Prosecutors in Pennsylvania are taking wage violation claims against trade contractors very seriously. A mechanical contractor in State College was recently sentenced following the first criminal case for prevailing wage law violations in the state. Owner Scott Good faces up to two years in jail for underpaying workers on prevailing wage projects.
His business, GoodCo, received a $10,000 fine. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania district attorney charged a construction firm itself with misclassification of its workers. Prosecutors have been able to charge businesses in addition to owners with such crimes since 2011, but this was the first such case. So both of these cases were the first of their type. GoodCo faces no criminal charges.
Owner Good was charged following a 21-month statewide grand jury investigation. The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act requires all contractors for projects with a cost of more than $25,000 that receive state or federal funding pay the same wage. The required wages and benefits change depending on the classification of the worker.
The state claims that Good intentionally failed to pay skilled workers that required prevailing wages by directing them to record portions of their work hours as lower-paid laborers. For example, a certified electrician who worked for 10 hours in one day would be directed to report nine hours of work as an electrician and one hour as a laborer, a position that pays $20/hour less. The workers reported that if they did not change their timesheet accordingly, Good would ask them to change it or someone would change it for them.
The state claimed that Good was able to reduce labor costs and submit bids for projects that had lower wage and fringe benefits costs. The violations took place on several projects in 2014. The focus of the case was a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation facility in Clearfield County, where the sentencing took place. GoodCo is located in neighboring Centre County. Good pleaded guilty to five counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, which are classified as misdemeanors of the first degree.
“The days when companies could screw over workers and not be held accountable to the law are over,” said Pennsylvania Attorney-General Josh Shapiro in a press release. “If employers steal from their workers, through misclassification or violations of the prevailing wage, we will act. My office is committed, with our partners in law enforcement, to make sure working Pennsylvanians receive the wages and benefits owed to them under the law.”
The judge sentenced Good to consecutive sentences of four months to two years minus four days in jail, followed by three years’ probation. He also has to pay $64,157.09 in restitution for stealing employees’ wages for five years.
Sarah Hyser-Staub, an attorney with McNees Wallace & Nurick, served as Good’s legal counsel. In a statement, she said that she respectfully and vehemently disagreed with the decision. She said the state’s attorneys didn’t even argue for a jail sentence. The sentence was left to the judge to decide.
“Scott is a good man who is ready to move forward with a goal of continuing to build and enrich the community he loves so dearly,” Hyser-Straub said in her statement. “The success of his company and the livelihoods of some 40 community members employed there depend upon Scott’s steadfast leadership and his commitment to personal and professional excellence.”
She said dozen of community members, including GoodCo employees, wrote letters of support for Good. Hyser-Straub argues he should only have received probation rather than prison time.
The state’s release on the case points out this isn’t Good’s first issue with the prevailing wage law. Good previously served as the vice president of Allied Mechanical Inc. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry sanctioned Allied Mechanical for engaging in the same type of wage misclassification scheme as was alleged in this case. Good left Allied Mechanical in 2008 and started his own firm.