What Exactly is the FFCM and What Can It Do For Me?

Dear Compliance Man,

I recently received a letter from you people in the mail. It had my name, the company I’ve been working for and the project we’re working on. Then it had the amount of money I guess I’m supposed to be making, but what I am getting is a lot less than that. So I have two questions. First of all, how did you get my name, and second, how do I get the amount of money that I should be getting?

–Real confused in Reading

Dear Reading:

Thanks for writing! The Foundation For Fair Contracting of Massachusetts sends out tens of thousands of letters like the one you describe to workers just like you.

State law requires that contractors who get public money to work on construction projects—roads, libraries, schools, fire stations, etc—submit payroll records to the cities and towns that employ them. These records include your name and the amount that your employer says that you’re earning. In our capacity as a ‘watchdog’ group, we show you that number so you can check it against what you’re really making—the amount that shows up on your paycheck each week.

Now, for the second part of your question. If there is a difference between your personal bottom line and what your boss says you’re making, you’ll want to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

For more information on how to do just that, give us a call at 1-877-507-3247, email us at info@ffcm.org, or fill out this electronic form.

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to info@ffcm.org.

Payments Are Perpetually Late

Dear Compliance Man:

My boss has a habit of paying us late. Is there anything we can do?

–Overdue in Otis

Dear Overdue:

Your boss may be late with the checks, but he’s on time when it comes to breaking the law.

Under Massachusetts law, late payment of wages is NOT allowed. Chapter 149, Section 148 of the state’s general code says that workers like you MUST be paid every two weeks. Employers who fail to deliver the checks on time are breaking the law and can be sued for back wages.

If you think you may have a case, call us at  1-877-507-3247, email us at info@ffcm.org, or fill out this electronic form. It’s free and confidential.

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to info@ffcm.org.


Compliance Man FAQs

In every Wage Watch issue, Compliance Man answers your questions about your rights as a public construction worker. And plenty of questions there are—I get letters, phone calls and e-mails from workers just like you almost every day.

While I love hearing from you (keep the questions coming!), many of the queries are very similar. So this issue, I’ve revisit some of the topics that seem to come up over and over again. Here’s a look:

“What is the FFCM and why are you sending me a letter?”

The FFCM monitors public construction projects all over the state, making sure that contractors who receive public money are paying their workers the prevailing wage. The Foundation for Fair Contracting sends out thousands of letters a year to public construction workers, informing them of what they are entitled to.

“So does that mean that my employer is cheating me?”

Look carefully at the letter and you’ll notice that we have included information about the rate recorded by your employer and other important issues like job classifications and overtime. Check the information in the letter against your pay stub. If things don’t match, there may be a problem.

“My boss is paying me less than the prevailing wage. Is there anything I can do?”

Yes! The FFCM is here to help you get back any money that you might be owed and works with the Attorney General’s office to make contractors like yours aware of their legal obligations to their employees. Our monitors will help you determine how much money you’re owed and assist you in filing a claim with the AG’s office.

One guarantee: the key to a strong case lies in good record keeping. If you think that you are being cheated on the job, start keeping track of the work you’re doing and how much you’re being paid for it ASAP. We can send you a logbook to help you keep track.

“I’m worried that there is something fishy going on with my pension plan—but my employer discourages me from asking questions.”

Under federal law, your employer is required to provide you with a copy of what’s called the Summary Plan Description (SPD), including information on what your plan provides and how it operates. You are also entitled to receive annual financial reports, individual benefit statements and other pension-related documents. Failure to provide such information could result in a penalty for your employer.

If you have pension problems, give us a call at  1-877-507-3247, email us at info@ffcm.org, or fill out this electronic form

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to info@ffcm.org.

Does the Prevailing Wage Pertain To Me?

Dear Compliance Man,

Where does the “prevailing wage” come from and how do I know if it applies to me?

-Paulo in Fall River, MA

Dear Paulo,

There is a long answer to your question and I won’t bore you with details here (Give me a call if you want the full run-down). The prevailing wage rate is set in advance by the state for each individual project, even before the ground is broken. If you’re working on a federal job, then it’s the US Department of Labor that sets the rate.

As you probably know, the rate is set differently for different trades: crane operators, electricians, laborers, painters, etc., and is set to increase in increments, often over the life of the project. Contractors are required by law to post the rates on the job site; the rates can also be found in the “specs” or contract that the Clerk of the Works has.

As far as how to tell if your job is a “rate job” (“prevailing wage project”), ask yourself:  is this a “public project”? Is it owned by, say, a city or town, or maybe the highway department? Or is it a privately-owned or commercial enterprise?

Remember: the general contractor may be a private company, but as long as they are working to build something for the public, with few exceptions, the rate applies. It all comes down to ownership. Acme Inc. may build it, but they won’t run it after they hand it over to say, New Bedford or Holyoke or the state. Still not sure? Just call us and we’ll help you know for sure. We can probably tell you what the rate is, as well.

For free, confidential information about your rights as a construction worker, call the Foundation for Fair Contracting today at 1-877-507-3247, email us at info@ffcm.org, or fill out this electronic form.

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to info@ffcm.org.

Often Owned Overtime

Dear Compliance Man:

My husband works for a small construction company in Western Massachusetts. He gets several different rates of pay, depending on the job, but his base pay is lower. My question is about his overtime.

His employer will only pay him “straight time” not time and a half. Also, this pay is paid cash, and not regularly. Instead of receiving weekly overtime pay, it accumulates until my husband asks for some of his overtime pay. Then the boss will include a couple hundred dollars in his paycheck envelope. They are not offering us an accounting of how many overtime hours he has accumulated, what has been paid, etc., even though I’ve asked for it. Financially this is difficult for us—we certainly could use the money weekly, not just when we get desperate and need to ask for it. The boss claims we are “better off” receiving the money as cash, but I’m not so sure.

–Frustrated and barely making ends meet


Dear Frustrated:

It sounds like you have every right to feel frustrated! If your husband’s boss only paid him when he felt like it, that would be a clear violation of state and federal laws. His overtime shenanigans aren’t legal either.

Overtime is calculated on a weekly basis and is triggered when an employee works over 40 hours that week. Employees must be paid in full, including overtime, within six days of the end of the pay period. That means that any time your husband works more than 40 hours in a single week, his next pay check must reflect that.

As for being paid in cash, his employer is within the law on this one, but he is required to give you the accounting you asked for. Whether payment is made via cash or check (promissory notes or IOUs aren’t legal), it must be accompanied by a list of hours worked including overtime, hourly rate and any deductions that have been taken out. Our state and federal governments enacted these worker protections in order that workers like your husband would be “better off.”

The most important thing that your husband can do is keep track of exactly how many hours he’s working, regular and overtime, and at what rate. If he concludes that his boss is underpaying him, then it may be time to consider filing a claim with the Attorney General’s office. The FFCM will gladly help him with this (we’re sending along a log book that your husband may find helpful), and will also be happy to provide his employer with a little refresher course on the law.

Thanks for writing!

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to info@ffcm.org.