WASHINGTON D.C. — A federal contractor has recently been barred from contracting with the federal government for three years due to wage violations. According to Department of Labor (DOL) findings, Garcia Forest Service LLC violated two federal contract acts, the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, addressing wages, benefits, and overtime pay. One of the federal Service Contract Act requires mandatory debarment if the DOL finds violations.
Garcia Forest Service won a U.S. Forest Service contract in 2007 for a reforestation project in the Superior National Forest. The company employed foreign guest workers for seasonal work of planting seedlings and clearing brush in the Minnesota National Forest. Under the Federal Service contract, Garcia Forest Service was to pay its workers hourly wages. The project workers all lived at the same hotel and traveled to and from work together, but their recorded work hours varied wildly on a regular basis. There were no job related differences to justify the variations or the consistency in the variations. These varying hours were a clear indication that the time sheets had been purposely altered. The DOL findings indicate the reason the company felt compelled to make the changes was the company changing payment methods from hourly based to production-based. This change and the time sheet alterations violated not only the contract, but federal wage laws as well.
Interestingly, this was not the first DOL wage and hour investigation into Garcia Forest Service’s contracts. The company paid back wages to its affected employees in an investigation into its practices in 2005 and 2006. Even though Garcia Forest Service has been barred, the administrative law judge believes the violations began as a good-faith effort to more effectively accomplish the project not with the intent to cheat employees of wages. This belief is backed by Garcia Forest Service’s agreeing to pay 12 workers nearly $30,000 in back pay, even though there was insufficient evidence to support the amount.
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