Construction Law Blog
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Mandatory Attorneys’ Fee Award for Actions Brought Under the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act
In Washington, RCW 19.122 (the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act or “Call Before You Dig” statute) provides for the protection of underground utilities. The statute was recently updated in 2013 and provides that homeowners and contractors must call “811” to schedule a “utility locate” prior to commencing any excavation. Failure to do so can result in steep penalties, as well as a mandatory fee award for the prevailing party.
Companies that do not themselves qualify for federal preferences as small, disadvantaged businesses can help in joint ventures with other qualified companies and enjoy many of the benefits these programs offer.
Federal agencies annually reserve over $12 billion in federal contracting opportunities for award to “8(a)” companies, which are businesses that have successfully applied for determination of being socially and economically disadvantaged under Section 8(a) of the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) Act. In addition, other categories of disadvantaged, small businesses, such as companies owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans, qualify for a growing allotment of set aside contracts and other preferences.
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced the new federal overtime rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). As a result of the new rule, over 4,000,000 workers will become entitled to overtime pay when they work extra hours. The rule becomes effective December 1, 2016.
The rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative, and Professional workers to be exempt, and changes the salary level that must be met before an employee can be exempt from overtime. The new minimum salary threshold will increase to $913 per week, $47,476 annually, and will apply to nearly all employees — an employee paid less than this threshold amount will be guaranteed overtime pay. The new federal threshold of $47,476 annually is more than double the current threshold of $23,660 annually ($455 a week), which has been in place since 2004.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
James R. Lynch, one of the attorneys at the law firm of Ahlers & Cressman PLLC, has been appointed to the Washington State Capital Project Review Committee (PRC). Created by the legislature in 2007, the PRC is responsible for reviewing and approving all public projects in the State of Washington using the General Contractor/Construction Manager (GC/CM) and Design-Build (D-B) delivery methods of construction. The PRC also certifies certain qualified government bodies to use these methods more broadly. The PRC consists of key representatives of Washington public project owners, designers, general contractors, specialty/subcontractors, construction managers, construction trades labor, and minority/women businesses. James has been appointed to the PRC’s Private Sector seat for a three-year term.
On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica (the “Silica Rule”). Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials. Silica exposure is classified as a human lung carcinogen and can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. Approximately two million construction workers nationwide are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplace as a result of drilling, cutting, crushing, or grinding silica-containing material, such as concrete and stone.
Since 2009, the City of Seattle Department of Constructions & Inspections (formerly part of the Department of Planning (the “Department”) has been considering requiring retrofits for buildings with unreinforced masonry (“URM”) bearing walls. URM buildings are the brick buildings built without steel reinforcements and ties and connections required by modern building codes. They were built throughout the city, but many can be seen in neighborhoods such as Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, Columbia City, Capitol Hill, and Ballard. URM buildings are the most likely type to be damaged during earthquakes, and retrofits will make these buildings less vulnerable to damage.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has jurisdiction to hear bid protests from government contractors seeking review of a federal agency’s contract procurement and awards. The GAO receives thousands of bid protests every year. On April 15, 2016, the GAO published notice of potential changes to its protest procedures, which would significantly change the manner in which protests get filed and decided.
Many of our veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are interested in starting or buying their own business. To support our soldiers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) implemented the Veteran and Small Business program, which creates set-asides for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and Veteran-Owned Small Business (“VOSB”). However, the far more lucrative set-asides with the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) are governed by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) program. For DOT set-asides, only women-owned and minority-owned small businesses qualify as DBEs.
More than 100 new industries are now eligible for the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Woman-Owned Small Business (“WOSB”) contract program. The SBA implemented the WOSB program in order to expand the number of industries where woman-owned small buisnesses could compete. The program allows set-asides for Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs (“EDWOSBs”) in industries where WOSBs are underrepresented and set-asides for WOSBs where they are substantially underrepresented.