EJC and Clients Recover Nearly $50,000 from Contractors in Settlements
The D.C. Employment Justice Center is proud to announce that it recently recovered nearly $50,000 in damages for five unpaid workers. These workers, three brothers and two other colleagues, were hired by E.A. Electric, LLC, a small labor broker, to perform electrical installation work at a condominium construction project in northwest Washington. As often happens in unpaid wage cases, the workers received pay for their first few days of work, but then the payments stopped. When they asked E.A. Electric’s owner when they would get paid, he told them to keep working and he would pay them soon. After nearly one month of work without pay, the workers finally quit, and came to the EJC for help.
The EJC engaged in a “community lawyering” action, combining negotiations with E.A. Electric with on-site protests to demand wages for the workers. The EJC, along with local attorney Virginia Diamond, then filed a lawsuit, which prompted E.A. Electric to settle the case for some of the workers’ wages. But to collect on all of their wages and possible damages, the workers and the EJC continued their case, pursuing Power Design, the higher-level subcontractor who hired E.A. Electric. The EJC alleged that because its clients were closely supervised by Power Design staff, Power Design was therefore an “employer” under federal and local wage laws. After over a year of court proceedings, Power Design eventually agreed to a settlement for roughly triple the amount of the unpaid wages, closely approximating the damages the workers would have been eligible to receive had they prevailed at a trial.
This is a huge victory, not only for these workers but for low-wage construction workers across the region. The lawsuit and settlement amount send a strong message to contractors seeking to cheat workers or insulate themselves from the responsibilities of timely paying workers the minimum wage and overtime, at the very least. And results like these tell low-income workers around the region that the EJC is here to help.
The EJC has several other wage cases currently in active litigation, and each year at its clinics assists hundreds more workers in fighting for earned wages. The EJC also played a key role in fighting for the passage of the 2014 D.C. Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act, strengthening the penalties and procedures in D.C. wage cases. Click here to support this important work.