Electricians claim they were underpaid on Beaumont, Port Arthur school projects

By Kelly Holleran | Feb 17, 2010

A group of electricians and their union filed a lawsuit against 10 contractors and two school districts, alleging the defendants did not follow prevailing wage laws when they paid the electricians.

The 16 electricians and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 479 claim in 2009 they worked on the Willie Ray Smith Middle School construction project in Beaumont and the Stephen F. Austin Middle School, Sam Houston Middle School and Tyrell Elementary School projects in Port Arthur.

According to law, the electricians are to earn the prevailing wage for their work to protect "local wage standards by preventing contractors from basing their bids on wages lower than those prevailing in the area [and] giving local labor and the local contractors a fair opportunity to participate" in public-works building programs, according to the complaint filed Feb. 9 in Jefferson County District Court.

However, the electricians, whose salaries ranged from $12.50 per hour to $21 per hour, claim they were not paid the prevailing wage rates as they should have been for their work on the school projects.

The electricians blame the Beaumont Independent School District and the Port Arthur Independent School District for failing to include prevailing-wage determinations in their contracts with bidders, according to the complaint.

The defendants have argued back, contending the prevailing wage does not include fringe benefits whereas the electricians insist it should and does include fringe benefits.

the plaintiffs in the case are James Doty, Kelvin L. Brown, Cornelious Thomas, Justin Brown, Dereck Hadnot, Jerry Gage, Brandon McKenney, Larry E. Lewis, Reginald Dean, Jardell Resean Elam, Adam Guillot, Stephen Rivero, Matt Faul, Herman Joseph, David R. Die Jr. and Angela Polk.

In addition to BISD and PAISD, U.S. General Contractors, Prime Electrical Services, Prime Electrical WBE, Walker Electric Co., Express Services Inc., Express Employment Professionals, Frost Enterprises Inc., Healthy Resources Enterprise, Cooper Group and DSF Advance Staffing are named as defendants.

In their three-count suit, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the public body entities must comply with all obligations under the Texas Government Code relating to the letting of contracts and payment of prevailing wage and a declaration that the public bodies have incorrectly calculated the prevailing wage.

In addition, they are seeking actual, special and incidental damages, attorney's fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

John Werner of Reaud, Morgan and Quinn in Beaumont will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: E185-886.

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