4 Federal Labor Laws Every Construction Manager Needs to Know (guest post)

construction hard hat on postToday, a guest post from Kristie Lewis, freelance writer for Construction Management Degree.  Kristie has written numerous articles on both construction training and education as well as industry news and trends. In her spare time, Kristie enjoys cooking in her newly remodeled kitchen and reading science fiction novels. You can reach out to her at Kristie.Lewis81@gmail.com.  Thanks for sharing, Kristie.

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In an effort to protect the rights of employers in all industries, the federal government has enacted several labor laws. Some of the laws apply to all business sectors, and some apply to specific industries, such as construction.

Although those who earn a degree from an accredited construction management program will be required to learn about a variety of laws that apply to the construction industry, it is never a bad idea to review the details of them. Here are four labor laws that every construction manager should know like the back of their hand.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

This act sets the standards for wages and overtime pay. In general, it requires employers to pay covered employees who are not otherwise exempt at least the federal minimum wage and pay 1.5 times the regular rate for overtime hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act is administered by the Wage and Hour Division. More information on this law can be found at the division’s official website.

Davis-Bacon and Related Acts

These policies apply to contractors and subcontractors that are working on public buildings or public works projects that are federally funded and will cost more than $2,000 to construct, alter or repair. According to the act, contractors and subcontractors must pay their laborers and mechanics employed under the contract no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area. There are additional details that can also be found on the Wage and Hour Division’s official website.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

This act is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and includes an array of industry-specific regulations that are enforced through regular workplace inspections and investigations. Compliance assistance and other cooperative programs are available for employers who request help. Although there seems to be an endless amount of rules to comply with, most of them are common sense rules that smart construction managers already abide by. Still, it is wise to make sure your project is congruent with the federal law, because any infractions can be found through inspection or reported by a worker.

The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) of 1959

This law deals with the relationship between a union and its members. Also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, it protects union funds and promotes union democracy by requiring labor organizations to file annual financial reports. Employers are also required to file reports regarding certain labor practices. It is administered by the Office of Labor-Management Standards. You can read the details of the law here.

Knowing the details of the above laws will not only keep your construction business safe from legal trouble, it will also allow you to provide your employers with the best working environment possible.

Questions on these laws, or comments?  Drop Kristie and me a note in the comment section, below.

Photo: (c) Anna Strumillo.

Solar Energy in North Carolina- an A plus! (news note)

You may be aware that back in 2007, North Carolina adopted a renewable energy portfolio standard (REPS), the first of its kind in the Southeast.

As part of the state’s commitment to clean energy and sustainability, required utilities to produce a portion of their electricity from renewable resources such as solar energy, wind, or organic waste. This portfolio standard created a new market for many North Carolina based clean energy companies. Coupled with generous corporate tax credits (30% from the federal government, 35% from the state), North Carolina has provided a fertile ground for these new businesses to grow and thrive.

north-carolina-solar-summary

 

Currently, North Carolina ranks eighth in the nation in solar photovoltaic capacity. Over 1,200 photovoltaic systems are registered with the N.C. Utilities Commission and of those registered systems, over 250 are of commercial size.

SunEnergy1 is an example of a success story in the state’s nascent solar energy industry. The company launched in 2009 with two employees. Today, it has a total workforce of 130 (including contract labor) and projected 2012 revenues of $135 million. Founder and CEO Kenny Habul had decades of experience in construction back in his native Toronto. However, green construction and was only an auxiliary part of his business. The recession prompted Habul to turn them into the core of his business. The incentives provided by the state encouraged him to grow his new business here.

This short (1.11) video is a cool time-lapse footage of a SunEnergy1 2.5 MW solar system installation in Plymouth, NC. The project took 17 days and required four Schneider Electric GT-500 inverters and 9,800 Bosch 245-watt solar panels. The system produces enough energy to power over 300 homes.

According to Kabul, North Carolina could provide even more incentives to grow the solar energy industry. One controversial suggestion would be to allow companies such as SunEnergy1 to sell electricity directly to consumers rather than use public utilities as middlemen. Current law mandates that only utilities may sell power to consumers.

Even without direct sales of solar energy, NC is still a leader in the solar movement.

Between the federal solar tax credit, the state solar tax credit, and energy bill savings, North Carolina, according to SolarPowerRocks.com, has one of the shortest payback timeframes “worthy of an “A” in everyone’s book”.  You can’t beat that testimonial!

Thoughts, comments, or questions?  Do you think your clients are ready for solar power?  Share your experiences in the comment section, below.

Video courtesy SunEnergy1.  NC Solar Summary chart courtesy SolarPowerRocks.com

AIA Triangle Home Tour (this Saturday!) (Tue Tip)

AIA Triangle House TourThis Saturday, make plans to attend the annual Triangle Tour of Residential Architecture. This year’s tour showcases award-winning, architect-designed homes throughout the North Carolina Triangle region.
  
What:  AIA Triangle Home Tour
When:  October 6th, 2012 (this Saturday)
 
   
Featured residences including homes by the following Firms:
Will you go?  Even if you cannot tour, check out the photos and details of the homes on the AIA Triangle Home Tour website.  And congrats to the participating, award-winning Firms.

Is there a dead body in your future? The first sign of trouble on the construction project (Law & Order: Hard Hat files Part 1)

fake dead bodyNobody dies in a construction dispute.  At least most of the time!

However, just as the usual “thunk-thunk” chord in Law & Order warns the viewer that something is awry, there are warning signs that your construction project may be under similar dire straights.  You should recognize these signs for what they are—early-warning lawsuit detection devices.  Signs that a lawsuit may be in your future include:

  1. The  “everything has gone wrong” situation.  This one is fairly big and obvious, but it bears mentioning.  If the project is delayed, over budget, and there are signs that the owner is looking for someone to take the fall, watch out.
  2. Much more subtle, but equally troubling, is the start acting squirrely” syndrome.  If you have always had a good working relationship with the general contractor, but suddenly he is aloof, watch out.  If the owner is usually friendly and free with the flow of information, and he suddenly begins to clam up, be concerned.
  3. The let’s document everything” protocol.  Now, as a lawyer, I feel duty bound to tell you that I think documenting everything is best management practice.  However, I do know that most normal folk don’t usually behave this way 24/7.  So, if you are on a project where a contractor likes to write letters to the file almost as much as he does change order requests, be leery.  Could be he just listens well to his lawyer’s proactive advice to document everything.  Or, could be he is preparing a case from the get-go to claim design failures, construction administration delays, and the like.  How to tell the difference?  Often, you can only go with your gut.  But take note—is Mr. Letter Writer documenting everything, or just items that might be considered “blame-able” ?
  4. The I’m confused” RFI king.   Similar to #3 above, but more specific, the confused RFI king always seems to need clarification or further information about your design.  The requests for information flow so fast, you may have trouble responding timely.  This may be part of the plan.  Or, it may simply be a numbers game— either the contractor is asking RFIs to buy time on the project (often on a case with strong liquidated damages provisions), or he wants to later be able to point out the “excess number of RFIs” to prove “bad design.”

 Now that you’ve caught the whiff of trouble brewing, how do you stop it before the dead body smell takes up residence in your car?  Observe, document, and respond in kind.

If you are dealing with an RFI king, respond timely, and note when the RFI is asking for information that is readily available on the plans.  You might even consider keeping your own running log of questionable RFIs, so you can readily show your lawyer, and a future jury, that although there may have appeared to be a large number of RFIs on the project, the fact was that most of them (X percentage) were questions about something that the contractor should have already known if he had reviewed the plans.

If you have a “document everything” guy on your hands,  respond in kind.  You should be doing this anyhow, of course, but if you have someone that is especially prone to documenting everything, you need to be extra vigilant that he is not stating anything that is untruthful, that the documentation is complete, and that any time you get a document that doesn’t completely tell “the truth, the whole truth”, that you supplement it with your own documentation accordingly.

If you have a squirrely acting client, you might consider just politely confronting him to ask if anything is going on.  It could be something that has nothing to do with the project –  internal politics, personnel crises, etc.  In which case, you will find that out.  If there is something more sinister afoot, you can probably determine that as well.  The key here is to ask whoever you are (or had been) close to, and to ask them off the record, in person.  You can learn a whole lot through non-verbal body language.  If you find out, directly or indirectly, that there may be a claim afoot, then you can proceed accordingly.

If the project has gone to hell in a handbasket, there is not a whole lot you can do, other than to keep ensuring that you and your team are meeting all contract requirements.  Part of this should include documentation for the eventual lawsuit, if it comes to that.  You might also contact your lawyer or insurance company for assistance behind the scenes—something called “loss prevention”.  Remember, reporting the dead body is the first step to clearing the air.  It’s the cover up that usually gets folks in trouble.

Now it’s your turn.  Drop me a note or comment below to share your own techniques for recognizing possible lawsuits.  Next week in the series: the mechanics of being sued.  Stay tuned!

Photo (which is not of a *real* dead body) (c) garlandcannon via cc. 

 

Need some HSW or PDH credit hours? Come here me speak in Chapel Hill on Wednesday!

For my local readers, if you are looking to earn up to 7.0 HSW contact hours or  7.0 PDHs, come here me this Wednesday at the Halfmoon Seminar on Construction Law in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

 I’ll be speaking on “Making Changes and Resolving Disputes During the Construction Process“. 

changes construction sign

Other topics include:

  • Construction Contracting in Traditional and Alternative Project Delivery Systems
  • Entering into Construction Contracts and Subcontracts
  • Accessibility Review and Update
  • Ensuring Environmental Compliance During the Construction Process
  • Protecting Entities Seeking LEED Certification

Registration is here.

If you register, be sure to let me know! Would love to meet more blog readers in person! 

 

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