Nearly 3,100 construction workers in California are eligible to claim a share of an $8.5 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging they were forced to work "off the clock" and weren’t paid for travel time, overtime and breaks.

Most of the workers were Latino, according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represented the workers along with the law firms Sullivan Taketa LLP and Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson P.C.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown told the Sacramento Bee that during the housing boom some construction firms tried to gain a competitive advantage by cheating immigrant workers, putting "downward pressure" on wages. The Bee said some of the workers were undocumented and that employers often exploit such workers because they are afraid to assert their rights.

Attorneys representing the workers will claim one quarter of the settlement, or $2.13 million, as fees. After other expenses are paid, about $6 million will be available to the workers, who installed gutters, fireplaces, insulation, and other construction products at construction sites throughout California between Oct. 13, 2002, and Sept. 30, 2008.

The average distribution per worker is expected to be about $2,000, according to a motion filed by attorneys representing the workers. The amount will vary depending on how many hours they worked.

In signing the settlement agreement, defendants Western Insulation LP, Schmid Insulation Contractors Inc., American National Services Inc., Masco Contractors Services LLC, Masco Services Group Corp. and Builder Services Group Inc. denied the allegations.


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