Title 37
Public Property and Works

Chapter 26
Building Service Work

R.I. Gen. Laws § 37-26-8

§ 37-26-8. Private right of action.

(a) An employee or former employee, or any organization representing such an employee or former employee, of a contractor or subcontractor may bring a civil action for a violation of § 37-26-3 for appropriate injunctive relief including reinstatement, or actual damages, or both within three (3) years after the occurrence of the alleged violation. An action commenced pursuant to this section may be brought in the superior court for the county where the alleged violation occurred, the county where the complainant resides, or the county where the person against whom the civil complaint is filed resides or has their principal place of business. Any contractor or subcontractor who or that violates the provisions of § 37-26-3 shall be liable to the affected employee or employees in the amount of back pay or unpaid wages or benefits, plus interest. A civil action filed in court under this section may be instituted instead of, but not in addition to the director of labor and training enforcement procedures authorized by this chapter, provided the civil action is filed prior to the date the director of labor and training issues notice of an administrative hearing.

(b) An action instituted pursuant to this section may be brought by one or more employees or former employees on behalf of the employee(s) or former employee(s) and other employees similarly situated or by any person, including any organization, alleging violations, except that no employee shall be a party plaintiff to any such action unless the employee gives consent in writing to become such a party and such consent is filed in the court in which such action is brought.

(c) In an action filed under this section in which the plaintiff prevails, the court shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff, require reasonable attorneys’ fees and the costs of the action to be paid by the defendant.

(d) The court in an action filed under this section shall award affected employees or former employees liquidated damages in an amount equal to two (2) times the amount of unpaid wages or benefits owed. Unpaid fringe benefit contributions owed pursuant to this section in any form shall be paid to the appropriate benefit fund; however, in the absence of an appropriate fund, the benefit shall be paid directly to the individual.

(e) The filing of a civil action under this section shall not preclude the director of labor and training from referring a matter to the attorney general as provided in § 37-26-7(c), from prohibiting a contractor or subcontractor from bidding on or otherwise participating in contracts as provided in § 37-26-7(e), (f) and (i), or from prohibiting termination of work on failure to pay agreed wages pursuant to § 37-26-3(c).

(f) Any person, firm, or corporation found to have willfully made a false or fraudulent representation in connection with wage obligations owed on a contract shall be required to pay a civil penalty to the department of labor and training in an amount of no less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) and not greater than three thousand dollars ($3,000) per representation. Such penalties shall be recoverable in civil actions filed pursuant to this section. For purposes of this subsection “willfully” shall mean representations that are known to be false, or representations made with deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard for their truth or falsity.

History of Section.
P.L. 2022, ch. 232, § 1, effective June 28, 2022; P.L. 2022, ch. 233, § 1, effective June 28, 2022.