Wednesday, December 14, 2016
State auditor issues report on workplace safety and prevailing wage compliance
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has issued a report recommending improvements to a law designed to protect workers and ensure they are being paid a fair legal wage for work on public projects. The report raises concerns with the complaint investigation process, worker safety, and notification requirements included in the state's prevailing wage law.
"When we invest in our state through projects that add jobs to the economy, we expect it to be done right the first time. That requires the work of individuals with specialized skills and the right training for the job," Auditor Galloway said. "Missourians should in turn receive a fair wage and a safe job site, and that's what this law was intended to do. My audit identifies a number of weaknesses and recommends corrective action to improve the law and its administration."
In fiscal year 2016, the state received 219 complaints related to potential violations of the law. Of those, 24 were not investigated due to staff reductions as a result of budget cuts, including at least one allegation of underpaid wages. About half of the complaints received were not entered into the state's complaint database, which limits investigators' ability to search for patterns or identify high risk employers with multiple prior violations. Adding to that risk, the part of the law designed to protect workers from unsafe job conditions has limitations that hinder its enforcement.
The report also highlights gaps in project notifications. The law requires public entities to notify the Department of Labor prior to starting work on a construction or other public works project, but there is no enforcement and the requirement is often ignored. More than half of the projects reviewed did not have a notification form on file. The notification provides important information to the department about the project, and entities who do not comply with this requirement have been shown to have higher rates of non-compliance in other areas as well.
The Prevailing Wage Program is administered by the Missouri Department of Labor's Division of Labor Standards. A complete copy of the report is available here.