Published By:Daily Record
Parsippany contractor fined $3.2M for underpaying immigrant labor
New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on Tuesday assessed $3.2 million in fines against a Parsippany-based contractor for cheating dozens of workers out of the prevailing wages and benefits they were owed under the New York State Labor Law.
K.S. Contracting Corp. and its owner, Paresh Shah, also will be barred from working on New York City and State contracts for five years.
“With President Trump taking clear aim at immigrants across the country, we need to stand up and protect the foreign-born New Yorkers who keep our city running. Every New Yorker has rights, and my office won’t back down in defending them,” Stringer said. “Contractors might think they can take advantage of immigrants, but today we’re sending a strong message: my office will fight for every worker in New York City. This is about basic fairness and accountability.”
K.S. Contracting was named as one of the worst wage theft violators in New York in a report by the Center for Popular Democracy in 2015. The majority of the workers impacted were immigrants of Latino, South Asian, or West Indian descent.
An Internet search produced two Parsippany addresses for K.S. Contracting, both listing Shah as the owner. The number listed for an office at 342 Parsippany Road has been disconnected. A woman answering a call to the other Parsippany location listed for the company, a residential address at 29 Phillip Drive, said no one by the name Paresh Shah was there, and "no contracting."
Paresh Shah is listed in New Jersey tax records as the owner at 29 Phillip Drive.
According to Stringer's statement announcing the penalties, K.S. Contracting was awarded more than $21 million in contracts by the City Departments of Design and Construction, Parks and Recreation, and Sanitation between 2007 and 2010. Those projects included the Morrisania Health Center in the Bronx, the 122 Community Center in Manhattan, the Barbara S. Kleinman Men’s Residence in Brooklyn, the North Infirmary Command Building on Rikers Island, Bronx River Park, the District 15 Sanitation Garage in Brooklyn, and various city sidewalks in Queens.
The comptroller’s office began investigating the company after an employee filed a complaint with the office in May 2010. The multi-year investigation used subpoenas, video evidence, union records, and city agency data to uncover a kickback scheme that preyed on immigrant workers.
Stringer's statement included a video shot with a hidden camera by a foreman on several of the aforementioned construction jobs. A comptroller's office spokesperson said the foreman, who was cooperating with authorities as a victim of the scheme, is seen handing $4,982 in cash to the K.B. manager in a car and asking the manager to count it. The manager then takes the cash out of an envelope and counts it.
According to the comptroller's office, the cash was the proceeds of paychecks distributed to workers, who then cashed the checks and gave it back to the foreman.
After a four-day administrative trial in May 2016, Stringer found that K.S. Contracting routinely issued paychecks to just half of its workforce and then required those employees to cash the checks and surrender the money to company supervisors. The Comptroller further found that those supervisors would then redistribute the cash to all of the employees on a jobsite, paying them at rates significantly below prevailing wages. Stringer added that the company falsely reported to city agencies that all employees on the job site who received checks were paid the prevailing wage.
Between August 2008 and November 2011, the company cheated at least 36 workers out of $1.7 million in wages and benefits on seven New York City public works projects, stringer said. K.S. Contracting reported that it paid its workers combined wage and benefit rates starting at $50 per hour but actually paid daily cash salaries starting at $90 per day.
The New York City Comptroller’s office enforces state and local laws which require private contractors working on New York City public works projects or those with service contracts with City agencies to pay no less than the prevailing wage or living wage rate to their employees.
When workers are underpaid, the New York City Comptroller’s office works to recoup the amount of the underpayment plus interest.
By William Westhoven