The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is seeking $2.4 million in back wages and civil penalties after an investigation found two Viking Lakes construction project subcontractors guilty of wage theft.

The agency alleges that the subcontractors — Property Maintenance and Construction (PMC) and the roofing and siding firm Advantage Construction Inc. — failed to pay $1.2 million in wages due to workers on 19 construction projects, including Viking Lakes in Eagan.

The investigation findings were included in a hearing request filed with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.

"It is unacceptable for employers to cheat employees out of the full wages they work so hard to earn. Likewise, it is unfair for contractors to have an edge when bidding against law-abiding companies by stealing wages from workers," said Labor Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach in a statement.

Besides the Eagan project, the other work sites were throughout the Twin Cities from Woodbury to Eden Prairie, plus outstate cities such as Rochester and Sherburn.

The Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) investigation and audits took place between March 4, 2019, and June 5, 2022, the hearing notice said.

The agency said investigators found evidence that workers were repeatedly warned not to report wage violations to authorities.

Still, during the past two years, PMC employees, some of whom were unauthorized immigrants, said publicly that they were paid in cash off the books and were paid less than promised. They also said they were denied overtime pay, despite working 10-hour days, six days a week.

State officials said Tuesday they also found cases in which the two employers docked employee wages for unauthorized purposes. They also said PMC repeatedly used delaying tactics during the investigation.

In October 2022, the Minnesota Attorney General's Office sued PMC and its owner, Leopoldo "Leo" Pimentel Jr., for interfering with the DLI's investigation and for willfully failing to make, keep, preserve and share wage records.

Attorney General Keith Ellison settled with PMC in September, a move that let DLI complete its investigation and issue the findings and a compliance order in October that demanded the two companies pay $2.4 million in wages and fines.

Ellison called the scope of the wage theft "astonishing."

The two companies are contesting the findings, so the matter is now before an administrative law judge.

In the filing Tuesday, DLI officials said they identified 25 employees who were jointly employed by PMC and Advantage who were owed wages, were paid in cash "for a substantial portion of their employment" and were not given earnings statements as is required by law.

An analysis of bank records and electronic timekeeping systems helped DLI officials determine the $1.2 million in wages owed to the workers.

Investigators found workers were owed $744,648 in regular pay, plus $473,812 in overtime pay and civil penalty damages of $1.218 million.

A prehearing conference in the case will be held Feb. 5.