A New Bedford-based solar energy company has been ordered to pay more than $125,000 in restitution and penalties for violating the Massachusetts prevailing wage and hindrance laws, Attorney General Maura Healey announced.
The AG’s Office ordered Cavallo-Cavallo, Inc., doing business as Beaumont Solar Co., and owner Phillip V. Cavallo to pay nearly $83,000 in restitution and $42,500 in penalties, including a $10,000 penalty for hindrance of the AG’s investigation. The violations relate to solar panel installations performed on public schools in Melrose, New Bedford, and Newton.
“We are committed to ensuring that all workers receive the wages that they are entitled to,” AG Healey said. “Contractors that violate prevailing wage laws take advantage of their employees and misuse taxpayer dollars. Our office will hold these companies accountable for this type of conduct.”
The AG’s Fair Labor Division began an investigation in September 2013 after the matter was referred by National Electrical Contractors Association. The investigation revealed that the company had improperly classified electricians as laborers, paid workers at an apprentice rate without the requisite number of electricians on site, and made improper deductions from the prevailing wage. As a result, 18 employees were paid less than the applicable prevailing wage, and the company failed to provide true and accurate certified payroll records to awarding authorities.
The investigation also revealed that the employer hindered the Attorney General’s investigation by attempting to obtain false statements from an employee regarding the company’s practices.
According to a report from South Coast Today, owner Philip V. Cavallo said the company denies the charges as well as any allegation of hindrance and plans to appeal the AG's order. "We were very available and compliant with this investigation and everything they asked for," he said, while expressing surprise that the AG's office would report the order to the media.
"The definition of an electrician is archaic and cryptic" in determining whether a laborer should be paid at the prevailing rate of an electrician, he said.
The Massachusetts prevailing wage laws require that employees on public works projects, except those who perform strictly supervisory functions, be paid a minimum hourly rate set by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Department of Labor Standards (DLS). In order to employ apprentices at an apprentice rate, contractors must maintain a ratio between apprentices and journeypersons set by DLS’s Division of Apprentice Standards.
The AG’s Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing the prevailing wage laws in the Commonwealth. Workers who believe they may not have been paid the appropriate wages are encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465. More information about the wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at the Attorney General’s Workplace Rights website: www.massworkrights.com.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Drew Cahill and was investigated by Investigator Tom Lam, both of AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division.