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Advocates demand better safeguards for construction professionals

Although Texas has more construction worker fatalities than any other state, most of its workers don't receive compensation. A majority earn extremely low wages, and almost one-fourth of workers have come forward with allegations that their employers withheld or denied them payment for the work they performed. Although state wage laws do exist in Texas, reports and surveys show that employers in some regions pay far less than in others. Members of the San Juan, Texas-based labor organization La Union del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, regularly report wage theft to organization staff. LUPE includes 7,000 members, and about half of them hold jobs in construction fields.

Like Texas, Missouri has minimum wage laws for workers and minimum-age limits established to prevent child workers from participating in hazardous occupations. Although there are no legally mandated requirements for providing workers with breaks with the exception of the entertainment industry, the Missouri Department of Labor notes that doing so is up to the employer's discretion. In the example of Texas, many workers who do not receive adequate wages leave the area for better paying jobs elsewhere.

Denied overtime and absence of breaks may also be grounds for workers' compensation lawsuits when coupled with evidence of illegal working conditions. Certain jurisdictions and employers may not be subject to legislative requirements that demand they provide compensation for accidents, but federal laws concerning minimum wages are applicable nationwide. Many individuals who feel that they've been mistreated bring court claims in order to secure compensation for hour and wage law violations. In most instances, they also seek the help of knowledgeable labor law attorneys who may help them present stronger cases.

Source: ENR Texas & Louisiana, "Activists Call For Stronger Construction Worker Protection," Elizabeth Findell, Feb. 1, 2013

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