The report, “Build a Better Texas,” was conducted by researchers from Workers Defense Project, the University of Texas and the University of Illinois. It examined working conditions of construction workers in five Texas cities.
“Findings indicate that the Texas construction industry is characterized by dangerous working conditions, low wages, and legal violations that hurt working families and undercut honest businesses,” researchers noted. They further noted that construction workers often face violations of their rights and no means to fight back when they experience workplace abuse.
Among the rights violations were failure to be paid, denial of legal protections - including being misclassified as independent contractors - and payroll fraud. Other issues included poverty-level wages, few employment benefits and dangerous working conditions. According to the report, between 2007 and 2011, 585 Texas construction workers died from workplace injuries. That’s compared to 299 in California in the same period, even though California reportedly has a larger construction workforce.
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The report notes that 71 percent of workers reported witnessing unsafe conditions at work, but more than 75 percent of those did not report the hazard out of a fear of retaliation. Thirty-two percent of workers reported suffering retaliation for attempting to reclaim wages.
Employees who are misclassified as independent contractors may find that they are not covered by workers’ compensation and may not be eligible to make a wage claim if they are not paid properly.
In some cases, workers have filed lawsuits to recover wages they were not paid. These lawsuits allege violations of minimum wage and overtime laws.