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U.S. Labor Dept. backs drywall workers claims for back wages

Hanging drywall is a dirty, hard job. And 250 workers at Summit Drywall, Inc., based in Issaquah, say it was even worse for them because they didn’t get paid the wages they were due.

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing Summit Drywall on behalf of the workers, claiming the company failed to pay minimum wage and time and a half for overtime.Summit Drywall Inc. paid drywall hangers and tapers on a piece rate basis. In and of itself, that's not illegal. The problem, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division, is that when you look at the total number of hours worked the pay has to equal minimum wage and time and a half for overtime. Wage and Hour Division spokeswoman Donna Hart says that didn’t happen at Summit Drywall.

“They were not compensated for all hours worked, such as time spent traveling and transporting equipment to the job site and basically for all of the hours that they worked,” said Hart.

Hart says the company also neglected to keep accurate records of all hours worked, which the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)  requires, even if you’re paying workers on a piece rate basis.

Summit Drywall didn’t respond to KPLU's  request for comment.

The U.S. Labor Department suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. The suit seeks back wages and damages for current and former drywall workers.

The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes a minimum wage and requires overtime pay, was first enacted in 1938.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.