Chicago, IL – Attorney General Kwame Raoul yesterday recently filed a lawsuit against a Bridgeview, Illinois-based construction company over an elaborate scheme to keep its employees off payroll and avoid paying tax withholdings required by law. The Attorney General’s office filed the lawsuit against Drive Construction Inc., its principal officers, and a complex web of entities and individuals for a years-long conspiracy to pay millions of dollars of wages in cash, and skirt laws intended to protect Illinois workers and ensure fair wages.
Drive Construction (Drive), which specializes in carpentry, plumbing and masonry, obtains public works projects worth several millions of dollars each year. Raoul’s lawsuit alleges Drive misclassified workers to avoid paying employees fair rates of pay for the hours they worked and to skirt its obligations to pay unemployment insurance contributions to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Raoul alleges Drive violated Illinois’ Minimum Wage Law, the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act and the Illinois Employee Classification Act.
“Misclassifying employees as independent contractors deprives workers of their right to be paid fairly and to be covered by workers compensation insurance in the event of workplace injuries,” Raoul said. “Employers that gain a competitive advantage by paying workers off the books and in violation of Illinois law create an uneven and unfair playing field for law-abiding businesses. I am committed to holding businesses – large and small – accountable for violating laws that safeguard workers and support law-abiding businesses in Illinois.”
Raoul’s lawsuit follows an investigation based on information provided by the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council, which has a collective bargaining agreement with Drive.
“The Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council worked closely with Attorney General Raoul’s office to shed light on this prime example of wage theft perpetrated against exploited workers,” said Gary Perinar, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council. “The Carpenters Union aggressively pursues wage theft cases because they hurt working families, they hurt Illinois taxpayers, and they hurt our signatory contractors who play by the rules and are at a major disadvantage against unscrupulous contractors who lowball bids by cheating the system. Earlier this year we were proud to introduce wage theft legislation that was signed into law which now holds cheating contractors accountable. We will continue our fight for working families across Illinois.”
Raoul’s lawsuit alleges that between 2015 and 2020 alone, Drive Construction obtained contracts for public works projects, such as schools and public housing apartments, worth nearly $40 million. The contracts required Drive Construction to pay its carpenters at Illinois-mandated prevailing wage. Instead, Drive allegedly paid workers in cash, off the books, for thousands of hours of labor at rates well below the prevailing wage mandated by state law. Additionally, Raoul’s lawsuit alleges that Drive’s employees often worked over 50 hours per week on both public and private projects. The Illinois Minimum Wage Law requires employers to pay employees at time and a half their regular rate for each hour worked in excess of 40 per week. Instead of paying these workers at time and a half their regular rate of pay for overtime hours, Drive paid many of its employees off the books at the same rate of pay for all time worked, regardless of the number of hours employees worked on any given week.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit also names Jesus Cortez, Kelly Byrne, Francisco Guel, Raul Lovera and Juan Carlos Lara, alleging they helped Drive set up various shell companies to funnel millions of dollars of wages to its employees off the books and shield Drive Construction from liability for violating Illinois law. These entities included Accurate Construction, Infinity Construction, R&L Construction of Illinois, and A Lara Construction. According to Raoul, the shell companies relied on currency exchanges to convert Drive Construction’s money into cash and money orders that foremen used to compensate workers under the table. Additional information is available here.
According to the Attorney General, Drive’s scheme stole wages from dozens of workers. Raoul’s lawsuit seeks back pay for workers, penalties against Drive and its agents, and disgorgement of Drive’s resulting profits.
Source: IL AG’s Office