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July 6, 2005

Firm agrees to repay wages pay taken under wage-payback scheme

YAKIMA — A Kennewick construction firm has agreed to pay $28,435 in back wages to two employees after a Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation led to charges filed and later dismissed by the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office.

Charges were filed against Three Rivers Mechanical on March 23 in Benton County District Court for requiring two employees to rebate part of their wages back to the company. The firm was a subcontractor on a school construction project for the Ellensburg School District and was required to pay its workers state prevailing wages because the project was funded by public dollars. Three Rivers Mechanical was accused of paying the two employees at a journey-level wage, then requiring them to give some of their pay back to the company in order to reduce their pay to apprentice wages. Neither worker was in an approved apprenticeship program, which would have qualified them to receive apprentice wages on a prevailing wage job.

The charges were dismissed by the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office on June 1 after the workers involved in the case and Three Rivers Mechanical owner Robert Daniel Smith agreed to the following conditions:

  • Wages of $6,077 were paid to one employee, and the company agreed to pay wages of $22,358 to another worker by July 31, 2005;
  • Penalties of $1,215 were paid for violations of the state prevailing wage law.

“When a company doesn’t pay what it promises, it hurts workers and gives the company an unfair advantage over competitors who follow the law,” said L&I Regional Administrator Reuel Paradis. “This is a great example of state and local cooperation that protects workers and lets businesses compete on a level playing field.”

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For media information: Ron Langley, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-5405, or lanx235@lni.wa.gov or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.lni.wa.gov/News.

Broadcast version (:30)
Charges against a Kennewick construction firm have been dismissed after the company agreed to pay more than $28,000 in back wages to two workers.

Three Rivers Mechanical was charged by the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office with violating state prevailing wage laws. The charges were filed after an investigation by the state Department of Labor & Industries.

State regulators found that the company was paying the workers a journey-level wage, then making them give back part of their pay so that they actually earned apprentice wages.

The company was a subcontractor on a school construction project in Ellensburg.

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