CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An appeal by a West Virginia State Museum construction subcontractor contending that the company is being unfairly ordered to pay its employees West Virginia prevailing wages has been turned down by the state Supreme Court.
The court, in a memorandum decision, upheld a Kanawha Circuit Court ruling ordering Themeworks Inc. of High Springs, Fla., to pay 33 employees more than $222,000 in back wages.
According to documents filed with the court, Themeworks was awarded a $2.28 million subcontract by the primary contractor for the state museum project, Design and Production Inc. of Lorton, Va., to do scenic work in the facility. Themeworks installed miniature trees and artificial rock formations, and painted and finished various facades, including the train depot and the company store.
Non-salaried employees on the project were paid at rates between $10 to $20 an hour, documents show. However, a Division of Labor audit in February 2009 concluded that the employees should have been paid the state prevailing wage as carpenters, at $38.06 an hour.
For most of the employees, the payments ordered to comply with prevailing wages are nearly double the wages they were originally paid for work on the state museum, records show.
For example, one employee who was paid $4,339 for 215 1/2 hours of work is to receive an additional $8,509 payment to comply with the prevailing wage order, court records show.
In the appeal, attorneys for Themeworks raised several issues, including claiming that the employees were artisans and designers, not construction workers, and not subject to the prevailing wage law.
"Themeworks has performed the same type of work in a variety of other states, including California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and had never previously been required to pay prevailing wages on the work it performed," attorneys Sarah Stewart and Charles Poundstone stated in the appeal to the high court.