In its opinion released in October 2010, the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Ohio held that the Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors (“ABC”) had statutory standing to present a claim alleging violation of Ohio’s prevailing wage laws. The court then returned the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
The University of Toledo planned to renovate certain buildings on its campus. An electrical contractor and member of ABC submitted a bid for the electrical components of the work. Industrial Power Systems, Inc. (“IPS”) submitted a bid for the HVAC portion of the work. After IPS began its work on the project, ABC grew suspicious that IPS was violating Ohio’s prevailing wage laws. ABC presented administrative complaints with the Ohio Department of Commerce, and after the agency failed to render a determination within the statutory time period, ABC filed complaints in state court.
IPS filed a motion for summary judgment contending that ABC lacked standing to pursue the prevailing wage complaints. That motion was granted, and ABC appealed. The issue squarely before the appellate court was whether ABC had standing to challenge compliance by IPS with the prevailing wage laws.
In its analysis, the court examined the Ohio prevailing wage statute, ORC § 4115. The court noted that ORC § 4115.16(A) authorized an “interested party” to file a complaint when prevailing wage violations are suspected. That term was defined in ORC § 4115.16(B) and included “any association having as members any of the persons mentioned in divisions (F)(1) or (2) of this Section.” The two cited Sections included persons who submitted bids for some portion of the work.
The trial court had rejected ABC’s claims for standing since it analyzed the issue under the principals of common law standing. The appellate court held that such an analysis was misplaced when there was a statutory basis for assessing standing. Under the statute as cited, the appellate court found that ABC had standing to pursue the claim. Accordingly, the appellate court overturned the granting of summary judgment on this basis.
The appellate court then focused on the claim by IPS that the ABC member had not bid directly in competition with IPS such that ABC could not pursue the claim. Admittedly, the ABC member had bid on the HVAC portion as opposed to the electrical portion. Again, the appellate court rejected this analysis finding that the statute merely requires that a person bid on the project as opposed to compete directly for one particular segment of the work.
Finally, the court rejected the claim by IPS that only labor unions are permitted to have status as interested parties under the statute. While the court noted that the potential beneficiaries of the claim were the employees of IPS, the court reviewed the statutory language and the precedents requiring a broad reading of the statute and found that such limiting interpretation was not appropriate.
Ohio courts have seen a flurry of prevailing wage cases, many of them brought by ABC. Absent contrary rulings, this holding will enhance the stature of ABC for such cases.