A federal contractor paid firefighters as little as $2.85/hour, according to the Department of Labor.Workers were wrongly labeled independent contractors and paid a daily rate of up to $250.These same workers fought fires for an average of 70 hours each week.LoadingSomething is loading.Thanks for signing up!Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you’re on the go. download the appWorkers who risked their lives fighting wildfires were in some cases paid less than $3 an hour by a federal contractor, the US Department of Labor revealed Wednesday, saying an investigation had led to dozens of employees receiving over $150,000 in wages and benefits that were illegally pocketed by the company.Since 2010, the Oregon-based company KL Farms/Fire LLC has been awarded 72 federal contracts worth more than $2.6 million, according to government records. But between June 2019 and October 2021, the company did not abide by the rules of those contracts, which required firefighters to be paid no less than $13.60 in combined wages and fringe benefits, such as sick leave, according to federal investigators.Instead of paying workers the minimum hourly wage, investigators found that firefighters and others, including those charged with driving fire engines and trucks, were misclassified as independent contractors, depriving them of benefits such as company-provided health insurance, and paid a flat daily rate of between $200 and $250.On average, per federal investigators, these workers put in an average of 70 hours a week fighting blazes in 2020 and 2021. That means a typical worker paid a $200 daily rate received the equivalent of $2.85 an hour in wages; a worker paid a daily rate of $250, working 70 hours a week, would work out to $3.57 an hour. The company also failed to pay workers on time, according to the Department of Labor.”Fighting wildfires demands people work long hours and face real dangers as they try to save other people, homes, businesses, and natural resources,” Carrie Aguilar, director of the department’s Wage and Hour Division in Portland, Oregon, said in a statement. “The workers accepted these risks and deserve to be paid every dollar and fringe benefit they’ve earned, especially under very specific requirements that KL Farms/Fire agreed to meet.”In total, the Department of Labor said it recovered just over $152,000 in unpaid overtime and fringe benefits for 57 firefighters and truck drivers, with one worker receiving over $14,700. The company also paid a nearly $17,000 fine.A representative for KL Farms/Fire LLC did not immediately return a request for comment.Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

Source: www.businessinsider.com