Updated at 1:20 p.m. – Montgomery County on Friday announced the “unprecedented recovery” of more than $300,000 in unpaid wages for 318 employees of five companies contracted to do work for the county including trash and recycling pickup, garage cleaning and parking security.
The county’s Office of Procurement said it has secured the unpaid wages for the employees over the past six months through enforcement of the county’s Wage Requirements Law, a 2003 law that requires county contractors to pay employees a “living wage.”
In the fiscal year that ends June 30, the living wage has been $14.35 an hour. It will increase to $14.40 on July 1, based on the area’s cost of living standard.
Advocates for workers who fill jobs for county contractors have criticized the county in the past for its lack of enforcement of the living wage requirements.
County spokesman Ohene Gyapong said the wages not paid by four of the companies were identified through the county’s audit process over the last three years. The unpaid wages of a fifth company, Gaithersburg-based Camco, were identified by complaints from some of the workers in a lawsuit against the company.
Eight workers sued Camco, which cleans county parking garages, claiming the company was making pay stub deductions for cellphones, uniforms and vision coverage—things that the employees claimed they never asked for or received. The workers claimed their pay was in some cases reduced to less than $9 an hour, well below the living wage minimum.
Gyapong said Camco was the only case in which the recovery of the wages involved litigation.
Gyapong said the other companies, Falls Church-based janitorial company LT Services, Gaithersburg-based trash pick-up company Potomac Disposal, security guard service Securitas and Laurel-Based Unity Disposal & Recycling, all agreed to pay back the wages after the county’s audit process identified the issues.
Gyapong said the wage issues identified by the county audits of Potomac Disposal and Unity Disposal weren’t related to a 2013 strike by those companies’ employees. Employees were looking for pay raises and health insurance benefits during the strike, which disrupted some trash and recycling pick-up services around the county.
In February, the County Council passed a law aimed at strengthening the county’s living wage enforcement activities and prohibiting county contractors from making deductions similar to those that were protested in the Camco case. The law went into effect in May.
“It is unconscionable that this type of illegal behavior, which is harmful to our most vulnerable workers, went on for so long,” Council member Nancy Navarro, who introduced the bill with Marc Elrich, said upon the county’s announcement Friday. “I am pleased that the County Council took the necessary steps to ensure that our Office of Procurement has the tools and resources required to enforce the law.”