A Long Island environmental cleanup firm has reached a settlement with the state to pay workers over $1.4 million in prevailing wages the company previously failed to give them.
Miller Environmental Group, based in Calverton, was contracted by PSEG Long Island in January 2020 to address “oil spills and soil contamination, conduct cleanup, and perform other work supporting utility installation,” but failed to pay 88 employees the required prevailing wage for projects involving public works, according to the state Labor Department.
Officials with Miller Environmental did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. PSEG Long Island spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin declined to comment, saying the company “directs comments on interactions with the Department of Labor to Miller Environmental.”
By state law, contractors and subcontractors that perform work on public work projects must pay workers the prevailing wage rate based on the location the work is performed.
PSEG failed to inform Miller that the contract they bid on and won involved public work, and Miller “failed to bid the contract at prevailing rates,” according to a news release from the state.
At the beginning of 2020, most workers involved were operating engineers and were required to be paid approximately $100 per hour including supplements, according to the Labor Department. They were generally being paid less than half of that, the department said.
Milan Bhatt, deputy commissioner for Worker Protection at the department, said the state sees "a whole host of prevailing wage violations in given year.”
The department has recovered roughly $12 million in unpaid prevailing wages for nearly 4,000 workers across the state in the last two years, he said.
While he said the agency is "not characterizing Miller as a particularly bad actor,” it's important for businesses to understand their potential obligations when bidding for contracts.
“The take-away is if there’s work being performed that could potentially be covered by prevailing wage obligations … pick up the phone, reach out and let us know that you’re unclear,” Bhatt said. “We understand that it might not be clear what the appropriate rate is.”
Workers impacted by the underpayment received their owed wages in January and February, the Labor Department said.
“In New York State, we believe workers deserve a fair wage for a fair day’s work,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement.
“We remain vigilant to ensure that employers are properly compensating employees for the work that they do.”