Following investigations by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, two construction companies have agreed to pay a total of $54,000 in back wages to workers involved in a roof replacement project at Camp Ripley in 2018 and 2019.

The state labor department found that Azure Construction Inc., of Fargo misclassified workers involved in the project, resulting in the workers being paid less than the prevailing-wage rate for the work they performed. The company agreed to pay $35,727.08 in back wages owed to nine construction workers, with back-wage amounts ranging from $414 to $6,597. The company was also fined $8,000 for failing to keep and maintain adequate employee records.

In its news release, the state labor department listed Azure Construction as based in Detroit Lakes, but the company is actually based in Fargo, said owner Brian Azure. The company does not have a presence in Detroit Lakes. The mistake came from an address provided by an attorney working for Azure as part of correspondance with the state, he said.

"It's not that I didn't pay my people," Azure said in a phone interview. "We were paying roofing wages and the Department of Labor decided we had to pay sheet metal wages to anybody who touched metal." The project involved installing metal roofs, he said. So even the laborers on the ground that handled the metal roofing had to be paid sheet metal wages, he said, adding that he won't bid on state projects in Minnesota again.

The state labor department also found another company involved in the project, Western Products Inc., of Moorhead, misclassified workers and paid them less than the prevailing wage rate. The company agreed to pay $18,779.09 in back wages owed to 11 workers.

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Prevailing wage is the minimum hourly wage employers must pay their employees performing construction work on projects funded in whole or in part with state dollars. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry sets the prevailing-wage rates to be comparable to wages paid for similar work in the county where the construction project is located.

“Skilled construction workers involved in state-funded projects must be paid the appropriate prevailing-wage rate based on the services they perform,” DLI Commissioner Roslyn Robertson said in a news release.