This matter involves consolidated appeals from a judgment of the Nineteenth Judicial
For the first time after appeal, Gibbs Construction filed an exception raising the objection of no right of action. We are required to consider that exception a peremptory exception under the provisions of LSA-C.C.P. art. 2163.
In 1984 Gibbs Construction Company (Gibbs) contracted with Louisiana Department of Labor to provide construction and renovation work on State Project No. 09-05-11-81S-1 known as the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital. Being a state project, Gibbs as well as its subcontractors were required to pay their workers prevailing wages in compliance with the provisions of LSA-R.S. 38:2301.
On December 14, 1984 a complaint was filed with the Department of Labor against Gibbs and its subcontractor, Interior Systems of Louisiana (Interior) by Steven Rohlfs, an employee of Interior, claiming insufficient wages were paid. In response thereto the Office of Labor conducted an investigation and audit of the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital Project. The audit revealed discrepancies which prompted an order to show cause on February 14, 1986 why there should not be assessed against Gibbs a deficiency with respect to the payment of prevailing wages, plus a penalty of twice the amount of the deficiency, said deficiency resulting from the failure of Interior to pay prevailing wages.
An administrative hearing was held by the Department of Labor in this matter on March 18, 1986. Testimony was taken from Judith Mayhew, Accountant II with the Office of Labor, Prevailing Wage Division; Perry J. Soniat, Jr., Steven Rohlfs, Daniel A. Eskine, Jr., and David J. Ryals, Interior employees who claimed they had not been paid the prevailing wage on the project; Forrest Carter, job superintendent on the project for Gibbs; Bruce Montreuil, owner of Interior; and James Montreuil, general superintendent for Interior. Gibbs did not appear nor was the company represented by counsel.
The hearing officer concluded that the evidence offered by Interior was inadequate to rebut the prima facie case made by the Office of Labor and claimants. Therefore, the hearing officer held that Interior had failed to pay prevailing wages as follows:
NAME GROSS WAGE GROSS GROSS DEFICIENCY PENALTY TOTAL DUE Daniel A. Eskine, Jr. $ 986.95 $1,973.90 $2,960.85 Steven J. Rohlfs 3,154.56 6,309.12 9,463.68 David J. Ryals 2,908.40 5,816.80 8,725.20 Perry J. Soniat, Jr. 779.68 1,559.36 2,339.04
An assessment was made against Gibbs in the amount of these deficiencies plus twice that amount as a penalty. From this ruling both Gibbs and Interior sought judicial review pursuant to LSA-R.S. 49:964. These petitions were later consolidated.
On September 11, 1986 a hearing was held in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court, wherein the trial court found that the factual findings of the hearing officer were supported by substantial evidence and that the conclusions drawn therefrom were not arbitrary and did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Gibbs and Interior have consolidated their appeals of that decision.
We have before us the res nova question of whether the Prevailing Wage Statute, LSA-R.S. 38:2301,
The Prevailing Wage Statute provides that certain state construction contracts shall contain a provision stating that laborers are to be paid no less than the wages prevailing in the community where the construction is being performed. The statute also provides, in subsection E, that all such contracts shall include a stipulation that the state may withhold so much of accrued payments as may be necessary to pay to workmen, laborers and mechanics employed by the contractor or subcontractor, the difference in the prevailing wages and what they were actually paid.
In Subsection F the statute provides that in the event it is found by the Department of Labor that any laborer employed by the contractor or subcontractor is owed wages the Department of Labor may, by written notice, require said contractor to pay the amount of underpayment plus, as a penalty, twice that amount. The contractor is given 10 days from such notice to demonstrate to the Department of Labor that his failure to pay the prevailing wage was due to clerical error or inadvertance. The commissioner shall forgive the penalty if the error was inadvertant, providing the deficiency in wages is actually paid or tendered to said workman, within the 10 day period. Further, the contractor may, within 20 days of notice, appeal devolutively said order by summary process and may rule the commissioner of labor to show cause in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge why such order should not be recalled and revoked. An appeal shall also lie from the ruling of the Nineteenth Judicial District Court to the appellate courts, the only ground for reversal being that the order was not based upon any substantial evidence.
The two subsections immediately following the above provision establish two methods of enforcement including (1) a detailed explanation of how the withheld funds are to be distributed following an order by the Department of Labor to pay prevailing wages and, (2) a section authorizing and directing the commissioner of labor to distribute a list to all departments of the State of Louisiana, giving the names of persons found to have violated the prevailing wage statute. The effect of being listed is that no contract shall be given to any person on the list until one year has elapsed from date of publication.
Basically, it is the argument of Gibbs Construction that the Prevailing Wage Statute, LSA-R.S. 38:2301, does not confer upon the Department of Labor the authority or right to seek a money judgment from a contractor. The Department of Labor contends that the Prevailing Wage Statute confers upon that Department the right to enforce that Statute in any of several ways, including the right to require the contractor to pay to any laborer or mechanic the prevailing wage. See Subsection F. The Department contends that use of the words "may ... require" in Subsection F empowers the Department of Labor to employ any of several alternate methods of enforcing the statute, including the seeking of a money judgment under Subsection G, the "blacklisting" of the contractor under Subsection H, and the right to withhold from a contractor who has failed to pay the prevailing wage, the deficiency below the
In construing a statute, the court must consider the law as a whole and every part of the statute must be given effect where such result can be reasonably achieved. It cannot be presumed that meaningless clauses and phrases were enacted. Pickering v. City of Baton Rouge, 442 So.2d 522, 525 (La.App. 1st Cir.1983).
We note that no provision of the Prevailing Wage Statute either expressly or impliedly confers upon the Department of Labor the right to seek the prevailing wage from the contractor by a money judgment. Instead, the statute provides that once an order, supported by substantial evidence, confirming an underpayment of wages is obtained, the department has two specific methods of enforcement. Subsection G authorizes and directs the Department of Labor to distribute withheld funds and subsection H authorizes and directs the Department of Labor to blacklist any violators of the statute.
Since the legislature specifically designated two methods of enforcing an order to pay prevailing wages, we conclude that it was not their intention to authorize the Department of Labor to obtain a money judgment against a contractor where no funds were withheld on the project.
In our view, Subsections E, F, and G of the Prevailing Wage Statute embody different aspects of the same right conferred by statute, viz. the right of the Department of Labor to "require" the contractor to pay the prevailing wage by withholding from the contractor the amount of the deficiency below the prevailing wage. We find nothing in the Prevailing Wage Statute which grants to the Department the right to convoke an administrative hearing in which a money judgment is sought by the Department of Labor where no funds have been withheld.
Additionally, the Department argues that LSA-R.S. 23:9
In sum, no Codal or statutory provision confers upon the Department of Labor the right to seek a money judgment to meet an alleged deficiency below the prevailing wage.
Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the proceeding dismissed, costs in the sum of $1,335.21 to be paid by the Louisiana Department of Labor.