State Labor Dept. stops work by five firms at Walmart sites

The state Department of Labor issued a stop-work order Friday to a Stonington construction company and four other firms that it alleges were working at Walmart sites in eastern Connecticut using illegal employment methods.

The department's Division of Wage and Workplace Standards said J&R General Construction of Stonington was among the firms found to be misclassifying workers as independent contractors to save on the cost of unemployment-compensation and other benefits. J&R was doing work at a Walmart in Putnam.

Other companies cited were United Drywall Systems of Westport, Mass, Mocci Concrete Construction of Rindge, N.H., G. Logan of Dighton, Mass., and J Hatchett Masonry of Springfield, Mass., the only company to be cited at a Walmart site in Brooklyn.

"We take it very seriously when an employer fails to recognize their workers as employees of their company because they avoid providing certain protections, such as workers' compensation," said Sharon M. Palmer, the state's labor commissioner. "Unfortunately, when an employer does not pay its fair share and a worker gets hurt on the job or is laid off, the state's taxpayers ultimately foot the bill."

A representative of J&R, which also operates as J&R Roofing & Restoration, could not be reached for comment. According to the Better Business Bureau website, which shows no complaints against the company, J&R is owned by Jared Whewell and Rick Nelson.

The Labor Department said agency representatives arrived at a Walmart under construction at 625 School St. in Putnam and issued stop work orders to contractors that were unable to prove they were providing workers' compensation. Investigators issued a similar order at the site of a new Walmart being built on Route 6 in Brooklyn.

Failure to provide workers' compensation coverage can lead to civil penalties of $300 for each day companies fail to provide for employees.

The state has collected more than $500,000 over the years from its misclassification-enforcement program. For more information, visit the Department of Labor website at www.ct.gov/dol.

l.howard@theday.com

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