The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries found that Vancouver-based contractor 360 Sheet Metal violated state prevailing wage laws during construction projects at four schools in Clark County.
An investigation launched in 2020 found the company owes $201,223 in wages and interest to about 20 employees. The department also issued more than $115,000 in penalties against the company and owner Beverley Martin for failure to pay prevailing wages and file required reports during the construction process.
State investigators said 360 Sheet Metal’s lack of transparency in ensuring proper wages on a taxpayer-funded project led to higher penalties. The company is expected to appeal the citations, which will move to the Office of Administrative Hearings without a set timeline.
Joe Martin, project director at 360 Sheet Metal, said Tuesday the company feels confident that prevailing wage law does not apply to its work on these projects.
The Prevailing Wage Act sets hourly wage rates for various jobs across companies to protect workers and keep public contractor bids competitive. Per Chapter 39.12 RCW, local government contractors and subcontractors are required to pay prevailing wages to all workers for all public works and maintenance contracts, regardless of the dollar value of the contract.
In one case, 360 Sheet Metal “workers were paid minimum wage, $13.50 per hour at the time, when they should have been paid $62.52 per hour for the specialized fabricated ductwork,” according to the department.
“The wages workers are expected to be paid are on the Intent to Pay Prevailing Wage form filed with L&I. The Intent is the company’s idea of what trades would be used,” said Matthew Erlich, a representative from the department. “In this case, 360 Sheet Metal didn’t file an Intent.”
About the investigation
The projects in question include construction at three schools in Evergreen Public Schools and one in Vancouver Public Schools. Union representatives said they have filed five additional complaints regarding issues of prevailing wages with 360 Sheet Metal that have yet to be processed, each of which were also for Southwest Washington construction projects.
Each school district has been made aware of the investigation but are expected to play limited roles as 360 Sheet Metal was either a secondary or tertiary subcontractor.
Workers on the projects, many of which were members of the Portland-based Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 16, filed the first two complaints in August 2020, followed by another two in November.
The following investigations examined whether the jobs required prevailing wages, a review of pay stubs and audits of each project.
The Department of Labor & Industries said 360 Sheet Metal did not respond to multiple letters informing it of the requirements under the prevailing wage law. Erlich said the company had “ample time” to realize the work being done in each of the projects was work protected under the Prevailing Wage Act.
Joe Martin said the company had, in fact, responded to letters from the Department of Labor & Industries.
“We deal with this all the time, but this is the most egregious we’ve ever seen,” said Scott Strickland, a representative from the Local 16 union.
Strickland and another union organizer, Matt Haines, said they were familiar with 360 Sheet Metal but had never worked with the company before the 2020 projects.
As the investigation moves to the appeal process, union leaders expressed they’d like to see stricter enforcement of the Prevailing Wage Act so that violations like these don’t happen so often.
“We’re in the process now, but part of the frustration we have is that there’s a lot of steps along the way that could’ve been taken to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Strickland said. “There’s a lot that can be done from the public players to ensure that bad actors like this aren’t setting the market.”