L&I settles nearly $200,000 claim against contractor that worked on Whatcom County Jail

A Colorado contractor has paid nearly $200,000 in back wages owed to 13 workers for work done at the Whatcom County Jail.

Sierra Detention Systems of Brighton, Colo. agreed to pay the back wages after an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. The agency investigated a worker complaint in January that the company paid lower apprenticeship wages to electricians on a $2 million project that involved updating the electrical and detention systems at the Whatcom County jail and county facilities. The back wages, which totaled $196,214, were paid in August.

It was a first-time offense for the company, said Jim Christensen, prevailing wage program manager for L&I in a news release. He added that the agency didn’t know whether it was the company’s intent to avoid paying the higher journeyman wages.

“We want to make sure employers avoid this sort of misclassification and simply pay workers what they’re owed for the work they do,” he said in the news release.

Officials at Sierra Detention Systems could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon, Oct. 2.