NORTHERN MARINA ISLANDS, U.S. TERRITORY — A group of four China-based construction contractors and the federal government recently finalized a multi-million dollar settlement to resolve claims that the companies failed to pay full wages to thousands of employees working on a Saipan casino and hotel on the Northern Mariana Islands. As part of the agreement, MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., Beilida New Materials System Engineering Co. Ltd., Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, and Sino Great Wall International Engineering Co. LLC will pay a combined $13.9 million in back pay and damages to an estimated 2,400 workers on the project.
An investigation by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that the companies failed to pay overtime to thousands of Chinese workers brought on to the project under tourist visas to skirt federal labor laws. Furthermore, the defendants made illegal deductions to worker pay and forced the individuals to pay for their own transportation and housing while on the project.
“These settlements ensure that thousands of workers will receive the wages they legally earned, while simultaneously sending a strong, clear message to other employers,” said Wage and Hour Acting Administrator Bryan Jarrett. “Employers who evade the law in an attempt to reduce expenses must not gain a competitive advantage over those who play by the rules. Regardless of where work is performed in the U.S. or its territories, we will continue to enforce the law and level the playing field.”
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must be paid at least one and a half times their average hourly wage when working more than 40 hours in a week. When companies break the law, wage theft victims can hire their own attorneys to recover their pay, damages, and even attorneys fees.
“As the Department of Labor works to prevent visa fraud and abuse, this case represents an example of the Department’s strong commitment to protecting the American workforce by enforcing the law,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
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