Construction firms to pay $13.9 million in back pay and wages

The U.S. government has ordered four China-based construction contractors behind IPI’s new casino resort on Garapan to pay a collective $13.9 million in back wages and damages to employees who came from China to work on the casino’s construction site.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that the foreign-based construction contractors paid their workforce less than the minimum wage and overtime pay required by the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA.

The contractors also employed workers from China as “tourists” under a tourist waiver program offered by the CNMI. These workers conducted work on site without proper work visas.

The China-based construction companies, including MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., Beilida New Materials System Engineering Co. Ltd., Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, and Sino Great Wall International Engineering Co. LLC have been asked to pay $13,972,425 in back wages and liquidated damages to more than 2,400 employees.

Investigators found that in addition to being paid in violation of the minimum wage and overtime requirements, these workers also incurred debt of $6,000 or more when they were required to pay their own airfare and recruitment fees prior to their employment on Saipan.

“These settlements ensure that thousands of workers will receive the wages they legally earned, while simultaneously sending a strong, clear message to other employers,” said Wage and Hour Acting Administrator Bryan Jarrett.

“Employers who evade the law in an attempt to reduce expenses must not gain a competitive advantage over those who play by the rules. Regardless of where work is performed in the U.S. or its territories, we will continue to enforce the law and level the playing field.”

“As the Department of Labor works to prevent visa fraud and abuse, this case represents an example of the Department’s strong commitment to protecting the American workforce by enforcing the law,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.