DLI seeks $2.4M in owed wages, damages from 2 construction contractors

Two Twin Cities construction companies are accused of jointly withholding $1.2 million in pay from employees, according to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

The illegal business practices allegedly occurred over a three-year period from March 2019 to June 2022 across 19 different construction projects, including the Viking Lakes complex in Eagan.

DLI officials want the two contractors involved, Property Maintenance & Construction LLC and Advantage Construction Inc., to pay back the $1.2 million in owed wages, along with another $1.2 million in liquidated damages.

In a filing, DLI argued Advantage subcontracted PMC for roofing and siding work on several projects and that PMC’s workers on those projects were effectively jointly employed by both companies for their work. At least 25 of those workers did not receive adequate compensation, including overtime, and others were paid off the books.

State investigators detailed other violations, such as unauthorized deductions from paychecks, failing to pay employees for training time and not providing workers with earnings statements.

“Wage theft hurts workers and their families, and hurts responsible employers that abide by the law,” DLI Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach said in a statement. “It is unacceptable for employers to cheat employees out of the full wages they work so hard to earn. Likewise, it is unfair for contractors to have an edge when bidding against law-abiding companies by stealing wages from workers.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison had also sued PMC last year over allegations that the company discouraged employees from cooperating with the DLI’s investigation. That lawsuit was settled in September, allowing the DLI investigation to continue.

In October, the DLI sent PMC and Advantage a compliance order demanding the back wages and damages. Attorneys for both companies objected, triggering a contested case in administrative court.

Don Patnode, general manager of Advantage, disputed the premise that his company jointly employed PMC’s workers and provided the following statement:

“We strongly disagree with the Department’s conclusion that Advantage Construction was the ‘joint employer’ of certain employees that worked for one of its subcontractors, and we believe the Department’s joint employer determination is legally and factually unfounded and incorrect. Advantage Construction did not employ any of its subcontractor’s employees and had no knowledge or have any involvement with its subcontractor’s alleged violations of law. Advantage Construction has objected to the Department’s determination and will be vigorously defending itself in the contested case proceedings. The company takes these matters very seriously and is committed to making sure that all of its actual employees are treated fairly and properly in all respects.”

Don Patnode, Advantage Construction Inc. general manager

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to an attorney for PMC but has yet to hear back.

A prehearing conference for the contested case is scheduled for Feb. 5.