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Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage Law was enacted in 1961 to protect construction workers from out-of-state competition, mandating those contractors pay the wages that “prevail” in each region on all government construction projects more than $25,000.
Violations of this state labor law has caught the attention of the Attorney General in Pennsylvania, who has used the violations as justification to file criminal charges. Scott Good, owner of Goodco Mechanical, Inc., just received a two-year prison sentence on April 26, 2021, for his failure to pay approximately $65,000 in prevailing wages to skilled laborers hired as part of a $16 million project to build a new PennDOT district headquarters. Charges were also filed earlier in April against major PennDOT contractor Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. for allegedly shortchanging workers out of some $20 million worth of pay and benefits in violation of the statute. The trend has also made its way to local prosecutors in Pennsylvania, who have filed similar charges against construction industry employers and who have created labor divisions to investigate wage theft and worker misclassification.
This trend highlights a new risk for employers in Pennsylvania – criminal charges for civil violations. Although construction industry employers are the current targets, there is no reason to think that this trend will grow to include all employers.