Economic Justice Initiative
By Natalie Tripp
EL PASO, Texas — Weeks after KFOX 14 first ran a story about painters going unpaid for work done on a local Housing Authority project, those workers still haven’t been paid and a local attorney is stepping in to help their case.
Economic Justice Attorney Jed Untereker said the small group of workers is an example of a much bigger problem.
“We did some investigation on the claim and we thought they had an extremely credible wage theft claim,” said Untereker, who works with the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project. “It’s a class of workers that are very easy to take advantage of, a class of workers that often times may not know their rights or the avenues they can pursue in order to claim their unpaid wages.”
The painters have been working at the Paisano Green Community complex for the Housing Authority of El Paso, scheduled to open later this year.
KFOX 14′s phone calls to Alex Rodriguez, owner of Five Brothers construction went unreturned.
The owner of Pavilion Construction, the main contractor on the job, told KFOX 14 his company was working with Five Brothers Construction to make sure the employees get paid.
“We’re pressing that on a daily basis with Mr. Rodriguez to compensate those workers,” said Brian Gerritz, President of Pavilion Construction. “We’re hitting this on every level, and can help him manage his claims.”
But until the money is in the hands of the employees, Untereker said it’s still wage theft.
“Week after week after week these workers are told ‘we’re going to pay you, the money is in the bank, we’ve sent the check to somebody else, it’s going to happen,” Untereker said. “In reality, nothing’s happened. We heard there were several crews before them who worked on this project and were also not paid. Now this is a cycle of workers doing work and not getting paid.”
Employers found guilty of wage theft may face penalties including jail time, in addition to paying the employees for the unpaid wages and damages.