Prevailing Wage Class Action Moves Forward

Fire alarm and sprinkler system inspectors perform “maintenance work” when they test the systems and thus may be entitled to prevailing wage requirements of California law, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar sided with employees of SimplexGrinnell company working as inspectors on public projects in California to test and inspect fire alarm and inspection systems.  Simplex designs and installs life safety systems and its employees inspect, test, repair and monitor those systems, according to the court.

“Plaintiffs have the absolute right to sue SimplexGrinnell for its failure to pay them prevailing wages for the work at issue even if the contracts under which the work was performed did not state that prevailing wages would apply to such work,” Tigar wrote.

A group of workers sued in 2011 claiming the company failed to pay prevailing wages as required by state law and engaged in unfair competition.

The laborers sought to recover prevailing wages, unpaid employee benefits or their value included in per diem wages.  The suit also seeks class action status for roughly 200 class members and potential damages of over $5 million, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Laura Ho, of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho.

Tigar first found that maintenance work is covered by the prevailing wage law and that it also qualifies as “public work” subject to the prevailing wage standard.

Simplex had argued that maintenance work was not covered by the prevailing wage laws.

The plaintiffs plan to seek class certification later this month, according to Ho.

Case:  Bennett v. SimplexGrinnell, No. 11-cv-1854JST




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