Lake Tapps insulation contractor I&C Northwest has been permanently banned from bidding or working on public projects in the state because of wage violations and false reporting of payroll records.
Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industry made the announcement in a Nov. 27 press release.
”I&C is one of the worst examples of a contractor taking advantage of workers, public agencies, taxpayers and fellow contractors,” said Jim Christensen, manager of Labor and Industry’s Prevailing Wage Program, who has more than two decades of experience handling cases of this type. “It is a privilege to build public works projects, not a way to collect taxpayers’ money and stiff workers on the wages they’re owed.”
According to the press release, L&I started investigating L&C and its owner, Jim Lingnaw, in 2014. The department warned him in 2016 about the possibility of receiving fines and being banned from public projects.
Initially, L&I announced in October 17 that I&C underpaid nine employees who worked on pipe insulation work in 11 schools in 2015 and 2016.
At that time, it was announced Lingnaw already paid $210,000 back to his employees, although there was still $218,000 left to pay in fines.
However, “it turns out employees didn’t end up seeing the $210,000,” said L&I spokesman Matthew Erlich. “We believe there was some other arrangement Mr. Lingnaw may have had with workers, but we’re unable to confirm that.”
After the 2017 press release, the department found I&C worked on three other schools, lengthening the list of public projects Lingnaw underpaid his workers for.
“That changes some of the details, and as a result of that investigation, it led to the settlement” of $153,000 back pay to employees, plus $48,000 in fines to be paid over the next four years, Erlich said. “We settled on this amount as a way to make sure employees would at least get some money back, and to avoid the lengthy issues litigation can bring.”
According to Erlich, workers should have received around $68 an hour for these projects, but instead saw “somewhere between $20 and $27.”
This is in violation of Washington state’s Prevailing Wage Law, which determines how much workers are paid on projects paid for by public money. L&I is the department responsible for determining those rates.
“The goal is to make sure there isn’t a race to the bottom,” Erlich continued.
In a phone conversation, Lingnaw said he hadn’t seen the press release L&I issued, but said the whole issue came down to issues with his bookkeeping.
“The way I had my bookkeeping, I couldn’t prove that the hours worked was correct,” he said. “If I had done my bookkeeping differently, we wouldn’t have gotten into this situation.”
Lingnaw added that the audits he went through didn’t raise any red flags until L&I started investigating his company.
In addition to being banned from working on public projects, Lingnaw also agreed to not be involved with his sons’ companies if they’re working on public projects.