California Electrical Contractor Convicted in Wage Theft Case

California Electrical Contractor Convicted in Wage Theft Case

Local Electrical Contractor to Pay over $350,000 in Restitution

The Alameda County, Calif., District Attorney's office has secured eight felony convictions against licensed electrical contractor Calvin Harris (Harris Electric) for failing to pay his employees the prevailing wage and for filing false documents to hide his illegal conduct. The violations of the law occurred over the course of four years. Calvin Harris/Harris Construction entered into contracts with government entities, which required the employees to be paid the prevailing wage for their work. The law also required Harris to report, under penalty of perjury, that he and his company were paying prevailing wages to the workers on the construction sites. In both areas, Harris violated California law.

In March of 2012, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, along with the California Department of Industrial Relations and the California Department of Insurance, conducted an investigation of Calvin Harris dba Harris Electric, a California licensed electrical contractor. The investigation began as a result of two courageous Harris employees who reported being the victims of wage theft to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 595. The two employees of Harris Electric worked on electrical contracting jobs that included Alameda County General Services Agency (Santa Rita Jail Solar Project), the Port of Oakland, and the City of Fremont. Harris Electric had been awarded public works contracts for these projects.

Contractors who are awarded public works projects are required by state law and by contract to pay their employees a "prevailing wage." The prevailing wage includes not only employee wages but also additional benefits such as a health plan, a pension, and training. California prevailing wage law assures a level playing field when contractors bid on projects, and also ensures a properly skilled and properly paid employee for each labor position. On public works jobs, contractors must file "Certified Payroll Records" with each public entity as a check to safeguard that the prevailing wage is paid. Calvin Harris personally filed, or directed his office staff to file, false certified payroll records to conceal that he did not pay most of his workers the required prevailing wage. A comparison of Harris’ payroll records for the Alameda County projects revealed employee wage theft violations of $359,347.89.

Harris pled guilty to four counts of felony public works wage fraud, and four counts of filing a false document to conceal the wage fraud, also felonies. In relevant part, Mr. Harris has agreed to pay $359,347.89 in victim restitution before sentencing on May 7, 2015. If he does pay restitution, Harris will serve 60 days in the county jail; if he does not pay restitution, he will serve 6 months in county jail. He may not engage in, or profit from public works jobs for his 5 year probationary period. The restitution will be used to directly compensate the eleven victims of wage theft. The resolution of this case could not have come about without the strong working relationships between the District Attorney’s Office, the State agencies as well as the Trade Unions, such as IBEW Local 595, and other entities devoted to protecting the rights of workers.

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