“The law makes it very difficult to hold owners, developers, and general contractors liable for wage and employment violations of subcontractors on their projects,” Goldstein said.
And even if the state finds violations by multiple subcontractors it cannot identify them because state law protects the privacy of companies accused of tax violations. That means none of the 15 companies it found to be acting illegally at the Marriott will be known to the public.
Meanwhile, the volume of violations being discovered at Massachusetts work sites continues to increase.
In 2011, the state task force on the underground economy collected nearly $11 million in fines, back taxes, and unpaid wages from companies found in violation of labor laws, up from $1.4 million in 2009.
The violations were found in a range of industries, including food service, information technology, and construction.
State officials began investigating the Marriott project in November, when officials with the Department of Industrial Accidents issued stop-work orders to several contractors found to have invalid workers’ compensation insurance.
Gallagher, Host’s lawyer, noted that Host had put safeguards in place to ensure workers were treated fairly, including language in its contracts requiring companies to abide by the state’s labor laws.
In light of the widespread violations that nonetheless occurred at the Marriott project, Host has pledged to tighten its oversight. On future projects, Gallagher said, the company will require the general contractor to certify that all of its subcontractors are aware of labor laws and are following them.
It will also require subcontractors to certify they are complying with the laws each time they submit payment invoices.
Casey Ross can be reached at email@example.com.