HARTFORD, Conn. — Two companies were ordered to stop work on the University of Connecticut's new basketball training facility after a surprise inspection found workers were being paid in cash, allegedly to avoid paying taxes and workers' compensation, a state official said Tuesday.
Inspectors visited the construction site at the Storrs campus on Saturday after a tipster reported wage violations and the use of workers who may have been living in the country illegally, said Gary Pechie, the director of wage and workplace standards for the state Labor Department.
"We understand it had been going on since August," Pechie said.
The two subcontractors, Intext Building Systems of Glastonbury and J & V Construction of East Hartford, were hired for work on sheet rock at the $33 million basketball center, UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said. She said the companies' removal would not affect the gym's budget or construction schedule.
"Neither UConn nor its general contractor were aware of the violations alleged by the Department of Labor, nor would we condone any such work practices," Reitz said.
Messages left with the two companies were not immediately returned.
Pechie said the investigation is not completed, but he said the companies will be billed more than $100,000 to compensate laborers who were paid wages below state-mandated levels. He said the primary contractor bears some responsibility for oversight and could be on the hook for the bill if subcontractors do not pay.
Frederick Hedberg, an attorney for the primary contractor, Enfield Builders, said it was not aware of the alleged violations and is not liable for any penalties.
Inspectors interviewed about 20 of the subcontractors' workers over the weekend. Pechie said it appeared some of the workers were not living in the United States legally, but it is up to federal authorities — and not the state — to enforce immigration laws.
The Connecticut General Assembly's Labor Committee is considering legislation that would increase fines for companies that break state laws regarding compensation for workers, said state Sen. Catherine Osten, a Sprague Democrat and Senate chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.
The basketball training facility will include separate practice courts for the men's and women's basketball teams, locker rooms, weight rooms, classrooms, a sports medicine center and staff offices. It is under construction adjacent to Gampel Pavilion, on Jim Calhoun Way, and is expected to be completed in the spring.