Construction company settles lawsuit involving unpaid overtime by migrant Katrina workers

Published 10:41 pm Saturday, September 9, 2006

A construction company specializing in disaster recovery settled a lawsuit with migrant workers who were denied overtime even though they often worked long hours cleaning up wreckage left by Hurricane Katrina.

Belfor USA Group Inc. agreed to pay $223,000 to 163 workers who were hired by Belfor subcontractors, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week in many cases. The workers — many originally from Brazil, Mexico and Honduras — migrated from all over the country after Katrina to help with cleanup in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Under the settlement entered in U.S. District Court, roughly 2,000 workers are eligible to apply for missed overtime payments, said Jennifer Rosenbaum, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The amount each worker will get depends on the hours they worked, but for most workers, it will be $1,500 to $2,000, she said.

Rosenbaum said the group was pleased Belfor quickly responded to the worker complaint brought in February and hoped the case would warn companies to comply with labor laws.

Belfor’s attorney, Steven F. Griffith Jr., said the company wasn’t aware of the problem until the lawsuit was filed but moved quickly to settle the workers’ complaint and to deal with its subcontractors.