General Contractors are Liable for Underpayments by Subcontractors on Prevailing Wage Projects

By James E. Murphy

However, while this has been the clear law of the State, no appellate court had clearly addressed that specific issue, causing some confusion between the state courts and a Federal District Court in New York. In a 2014 decision in Barragon-Aquino v. East Port Excavation & Utilities, Inc., E.D.N.Y. Index Number 13-cv-343, the District Court held that a general contractor could not be sued by a subcontractor’s workers for prevailing wage violations, because the general contractor was not those workers’ employer. This holding – which goes against decades of law within the New York court system – was used by numerous general contractors to try to avoid liability for their subcontractors’ underpayments.

Recently, the First Department Appellate Division rejected Barragon-Aquino, and clarified that general contractors can be held liable by their subcontractors’ employees for prevailing wage underpayments. In Wroble v. Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Engineering of New York, (, the First Department specifically recognized that “the courts of this state have consistently held that, in public works contracts, a subcontractor's employees have both an administrative remedy under the statute as well as a third-party right to make a breach of contract claim for underpayment against the general contractor.” While this has been the law in New York for decades, the First Department’s clarification that workers on public works projects can sue general contractors regardless of who their employer is will serve to protect the rights of workers to receive prevailing wages. This is especially important in the construction industry, where subcontractors often do not have the resources to pay back prevailing wages which they had denied to their workers.

If you think you have been underpaid prevailing wages on a construction project, contact the attorneys at Virginia & Ambinder, LLP for a free consultation.

Are you having problems with your employer? We've successfully recovered millions of dollars for our clients.

More From Our Blog

Employment Law

$860,000 Judgment for Construction Workers

By Jack Newhouse

V&A attorneys Jack Newhouse and Michele Moreno represented the workers.

Continue Reading

V&A Discusses Employee Rights in the Food Industry with Students at the Institute of Culinary Education

By Marta Nadgorska

V&A has been assisting workers with legal issues for years. For more information, check out our previous victories.

Continue Reading

New Jersey Passes Ban On Salary History For Job Applicants

By Kara Miller

Continuing the trend of worker protections, on July 25, 2019, New Jersey signed Assembly Bill 1094 into law, which will make it illegal...

Continue Reading