DENVER – They say they were cheated out of some of their regular wages and cheated out of all overtime.
Now, 150 workers who helped hang drywall in the luxury SkyHouse Denver high rise, will share in an $800,000 settlement from two of the four companies they sued in U.S. District Court.
One of the workers, Cesar Salazar, told Denver7 that he went through two previous Christmases without some of those wages.
He said he decided to step forward and become one of the nine faces of a class action lawsuit after his teenage son asked him why he was gone so much, but couldn’t afford to buy him McDonald’s.
“It was bad,” Salazar said, “It was crazy.”
The single father said he worked 12 to 16 hour days, 7 days a week, but didn’t get paid for some of those hours and never was paid overtime.
“We were robbed,” he said. “The only thing I could think of was (they were) holding our money hostage to (make us) come and work on Sundays.”
“In this city alone, workers are denied millions of dollars in wages and other benefits every year, unlawfully,” said David Seligman, an attorney with “Towards Justice,” a legal services nonprofit that represented the workers in their class action case against allegedly abusive employers.
The workers sued The Circle Group, LLC, based in Georgia; L.A.G. Drywall, Inc. based in Florida; Javier Martinez Drywall, LLC, based in Colorado; and Gulf Coast Construction, Inc., a George based company that filed for bankruptcy in 2016.
They allege that the companies not only failed to pay wages they owed, but misled employees about rates of pay.
The lawsuit stated that one plaintiff said he agreed to come to Colorado because a Mr. Mendiola promised him a “particular rate of pay,” but when he got to Colorado he was paid at a lower rate.
Another plaintiff said he was told when he was hired that he would be paid $17/hour. Instead he was paid $15/hour. Later, a Mr. Musto told him that his “pay was being cut down to $12/hour and that if he didn’t like it, he could leave.”
The lawsuit also alleges that some of the workers who complained had their wages lowered and that others had their employment terminated.
The lawsuit alleges that when Salazar complained about wages owed, “Mr. Musto grabbed a tool he was using and threw it down the hall, while cursing at Salazar and threatening to kick and beat him.”
Several of the supervisors reportedly treated the Latino workers with contempt, berating them and calling them derogatory names.
Workers reached a settlement with two of the four defendants.
They will divvy up an $800,000 settlement based on how long they worked on the SkyHouse project.
Towards Justice Executive Director Nina DiSalvo told Denver7 that The Circle Group agreed to pay $700,000 in back wages, while L.A.G. Drywall agreed to pay just over $100,000.
“All the workers in this case will get just about all the wages we alleged were unlawfully denied,” Seligman said.
DiSalvo said neither company admitted to wrong doing.
Denver7 reached out to The Circle Group but has not heard back from them.