Maple Valley construction company faces L&I charges, again

Sandoval Construction must pay back just under $100,000 in wages

A Maple Valley construction company owes over $100,000 in wages to employees and is being forced to pay that the state.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) named Alejandro Sandoval as the business owner in a press release sent on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Sandoval is being cited for not paying the required wages and failure to file payroll for employees who worked on a Tacoma public housing project.

“He faces being barred from bidding on any future public projects until the workers are paid,” the press release stated.

Sandoval Construction was hired to perform wall and roof framing, along with other carpentry work, at the Valhalla Apartments for the City of Tacoma in 2017. Twenty-five workers are owed just over $92,500 in back wages because the company did not pay the required $40.66 per hour for residential carpenters. Sandoval also owes $28,500 in fines, the press release stated.

“This company has an established history of not paying workers what they’re owed,” L&I’s Prevailing Wage Program Manager Jim Christensen stated in the press release. “We had to take this action after years of educating the company about their requirements under state law.”

The company’s tumultuous history

Sandoval pleaded guilty in in 2018 to a 2016 investigation for false reporting and first-hand degree theft in a separate L&I case against his construction company. Over a dozen workers were owed more than $25,000 in unpaid wages involving framing of residential properties in Seattle and King County, as reported by The Covington Reporter in the summer of 2018.

The Attorney General’s Office began its criminal investigation in 2016 after L&I received complaints from a dozen workers for Sandoval and his company, alleging Sandoval Construction had not paid them $25,620 in wages that they were owed.

In addition, an L&I audit revealed that Sandoval had underreported his workers’ compensation payments to the state agency, despite deducting them from employee paychecks. The audit, which covered a sampling of four different quarters, found he owed more than twice what he reported to L&I in that timeframe.

Under separate civil proceedings, Sandoval owed at least $197,000 in unpaid workers compensation insurance premiums, interest and penalties.

“As a result of plea agreements signed earlier this year, the company repaid the wages and is on a plan to repay $35,000 in premiums by June 2020,” the press release stated.

This recent L&I investigation began in January 2018. L&I employees discovered Sandoval filed paperwork which showed only nine workers were employed on the project in Tacoma, and Sandoval did not file other required payroll records. The 25 workers are owed between $20 and $9,500 each, depending on how long they worked on the project.

“Sandoval deliberately tried to circumvent record-keeping rules and cut corners in paying his worker,” Christensen stated in the press release. “he issued checks that bounced, also leaving employees faced with paying bank fees.”

The Valhalla Apartments are located on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in the Tacoma Hilltop neighborhood. The apartments include retail space. The prime contract was RAFN Company, according to the press release.

According to Capital Management Advisors, the Valhalla Court Apartments are affordable rentals starting at just $650 a month.

The state’s prevailing wage law is triggered when construction projects use public funds. The law covers workers on schools, roads and other types of public projects. L&I enforces the law, which protects workers from substandard earnings and preserves local wage standards. The law also ensures contractors have a level playing field when bidding on public projects.

If you believe your workplace rights have been violated, including not receiving pay, being denied rest or meal breaks, or not being allowed to use paid sick leave to care for a family member, you can file an online complaint with L&I, or download a complaint form and return it to the L&I office in the county where the business is located.