Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer on Thursday announced the city has filed a lawsuit against the main contractor and several subcontractors on a city animal shelter construction project, alleging the companies failed to pay their workers at least $250,000 in promised wages.

The lawsuit is part of a stepped up effort by Feuer to combat “wage theft,” or the underpayment of wages.

“Stealing wages from hard-working men and women is reprehensible and it must end,” Feuer said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “No one – especially city contractors paid with taxpayer dollars – should fail to pay workers what they are rightly owed.”

The lawsuit filed against Mackone Development Inc. of Los Angeles and five subcontractors alleges the companies not only failed to pay the wages, but also falsified documents and intimidated and harassed workers in an attempt to cover up the wage theft.

In 2009, Mackone Development was awarded a $9.5 million bid for construction of the 68,000-square-foot South Los Angeles Animal Care Center facility. Work began in 2010 and was completed last year.

The lawsuit alleges Mackone allowed, and in some cases encouraged, subcontractors to not pay workers what they were owed. The subcontractors named in the lawsuit include: Pak Cabinets of North Hollywood; Lectrfy Inc. of Orange; KCC General Construction of Koreatown; King Wire Partitions Inc. of Highland Park; and Nader Construction Inc. of Calabasas.

According to allegations in the lawsuit, the companies paid their workers much less than the required prevailing wage – in one case paying workers $5 an hour, well below minimum wage – failed to pay overtime and failed to pay for all regular hours worked. To cover up these moves, the lawsuit alleges the companies falsified documents, used multiple sets of payroll records and intimidated workers who objected.

“The impact on the workers was significant,” the lawsuit states. “Not only were they and their families severely damaged financially, but many were subject to overt harassment and intimidation as part of the defendants’ efforts to conceal their illegal schemes.”

Mackone Development’s attorney, Mark Feldman, issued a statement late on Thursday, calling the city’s allegations false and reprehensible.

The statement reads, in part:

“The City Attorney’s allegation that Mackone Development engaged in wage theft on the South Los Angeles Animal Care project is false. It is reprehensible that the Office of the City Attorney would make such unsupported statement about Mackone Development, especially since the city has already agreed in writing that Mackone Development was not responsible for the alleged under-payments.

“Mackone Development spends considerable time and money to make sure that its workers are paid the correct wages on public works and private construction projects. Mackone also monitors the subcontractors who submitted bids on the project to make sure that proper wages are paid to their workers…In the end, Mackone will be cleared of any alleged wrongdoing.”

Subcontractors named in the suit declined to comment or could not be reached.

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