The city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit Thursday against a building contractor and five of its subcontractors, accusing them of not paying more than 50 employees a total of more than $250,000 in wages and overtime.
Some employees who were meant to be making $49 an hour were instead paid $8 an hour and others promised $45 an hour were given $5 an hour, according to the lawsuit.
City Atty. Mike Feuer says the lawsuit is part of his office's broader effort to combat wage theft.
“There are some basic rules in our society that everyone expects they can live by,” he said at a news conference. “Among those is that when you put in an honest day's work, you deserve pay for that day. When people don’t pay what their workers are owed, it’s against the law.”
The city accused Mackone Development Inc., which had a $9.5-million contract to build the South Los Angeles Animal Care Center, of encouraging its contractors in some cases to violate state wage law. Mackone also failed to pay some of its employees for working on Saturdays, the city's lawsuit said.
Three of Mackone’s subcontractors, Pak’s Cabinet, Lectrfy Inc. and KCC General Construction, were accused in the lawsuit of paying construction workers less than state law mandated for local government projects. Southern California Steel Inc., King Wire Partitions Inc. and Nader Construction underpaid fees to worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance funds and other benefits, the lawsuit alleged.
In a statement, Mackone described the city attorney's claims as false and irresponsible.
"It is reprehensible that the office of the city attorney would make such unsupported statements about Mackone Development Inc., especially since the city has already agreed in writing that Mackone Development was not responsible for the alleged underpayments," the company's attorney, Mark Feldman, said in the statement.
Feldman said Mackone had already settled with the city on two of the lawsuit's three claims.
Roben Grigorian Agahn, of Southern California Steel, said the city's accusations were "not true." He declined further comment.
Calls to Lectrfy were not returned. A manager at Pak’s Cabinet said the company had no comment. KCC could not be reached for comment.
The city is seeking to reimburse all employees who it says should have been paid more, as well as a permanent injunction preventing each of the companies from doing business with the city and civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation.
Feuer also announced a new hotline for the public to make complaints about wage theft. That number is (213) 978-7141.
Follow the reporter on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.