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Painter Accused of Intimidating Workers

Monday, August 25, 2014

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Federal authorities have obtained a "rare and extraordinary" court order to prevent a New Hampshire painting contractor from retaliating against employees during a long-running wage dispute.

The U.S. Department of Labor has secured a preliminary injunction against Nashua-based Kevin Corriveau Painting Inc., and its officers and agents, "to prevent them from intimidating, retaliating or discriminating against current or former employees involved in a federal investigation and lawsuit."

Wage Allegations

The department originally filed suit in October 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire. The amended complaint accuses company owner and president Kevin Corriveau, vice president Brian Corriveau, and treasurer Sharon Mercuri of "willfully and repeatedly" violating federal wage laws by underpaying employees.

An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found that the defendants were requiring employees to falsify their own time cards, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The complaint says the company paid some employees on a "piece work" basis, rather than paying them the required minimum wage. Other employees were not paid for all hours worked, the complaint says. More than 50 employees are owed overtime for workweeks in excess of 40 hours, the suit says.

In some cases, employees were paid in "off-payroll cash," the suit alleges.

The Corriveaus did not respond Friday (Aug. 22) to a request for comment. According to the company's website, Kevin Corriveau founded the company in 1997, and his brother Brian joined the company in 2000.

The company offers commercial and residential painting, remodeling and renovation services in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

'Harassed and Intimidated'

In a new filing, the department alleges that former employees of the contractor told the Wage and Hour Divison in July that the Corriveaus' attorney, Jeffrey Levinson, had "harassed and intimidated workers into signing affidavits, which contained false statements."

"The defendants provided the affidavits to the department during the discovery phase of the litigation to convince the department and the court that no violations had been committed," the Department of Labor said in a release.

OT Pay
Department of Labor

More than 50 workers are owed overtime for workweeks in excess of 40 hours, authorities say.

The complaint says the defendants "intimidated and harassed employees and former employees with threats" related to their expected testimony in the case and sought to "alter their expected testimony ... by actively obstructing their efforts to communicate" with federal authorities.

Employees were "coached" and "coerced" into making and signing fales statements, the suit alleges.

'Extraordinary Step'

Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England, called the injunction "a rare and extraordinary step, but one that was warranted under the circumstances."

"If the defendants violate the terms of the injunction, they will be held accountable to the court including, if justified, the imposition of contempt sanctions," he said.

Stipulation

The court approved a Stipulation that:

  • Prohibits the defendants or Levinson "from retaliating or discriminating in any way against any current or former employee" or "any potential witness";
  • Bars the parties from communicating directly or indirectly with any current or former employee about the case;
  • Limits the use of certain employee affidavits submitted by the company;
  • Orders the company to allow a DOL representative to read a two-paragraph statement aloud, in English and Spanish, to all employees advising of their right to speak with authorities "free from retaliation or threats of retaliation or intimidation..."; and
  • Orders the company to post the statement at each worksite.

Freedom from Coercion

"Employees have the legal right to speak freely with investigators or other department officials without being threatened, coerced or subject to physical or verbal abuse by their employer or his agents," said Daniel Cronin, the Wage and Hour Division's district director for northern New England.

"Such behavior is against the law. This couldn't be simpler or clearer."

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

   

Tagged categories: Commercial contractors; Enforcement; Good Technical Practice; Government; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Painting Contractors; Residential contractors; Workers

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