Plaintiffs brought this action against the Secretary of Labor and the Comptroller General
for injunctive and declaratory relief from the final administrative action of the Department of Labor debarring plaintiffs for violations of the Service Contract Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 351-358, and implementing regulations. It is alleged in the complaint that the Secretary's decision to place Mastercraft on the list of persons ineligible to contract with the Federal government was violative of the Administrative Procedure Act. Both sides have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, plaintiffs' motion will be granted and defendant's motion will be denied.
The material facts are not in dispute. On April 7, 1977, Mastercraft Flooring, Inc. was awarded a contract to provide all labor and materials for the alteration and installation of carpeting and other floor covering in some fifty federal office buildings located in the Washington, D.C. area between June 1, 1977 through May 3, 1978. The contract was subject to the Service Contract Act which requires that certain minimum wages and fringe benefits be paid to employees engaged in government contract work. Early in 1978, the Department of Labor conducted an investigation to determine whether Mastercraft was complying with the statute, from which it concluded that Mastercraft had misclassified some of its employees and had failed to pay the proper fringe benefits to some others. In April, 1978, Mastercraft paid the amount demanded by the government (i.e., $11,548.02) under protest. However, subsequently the company conceded that it had failed to pay full fringe benefits between July and December, 1977 in the amount of $6,218.38.
On August 28, 1978, the Regional Solicitor for Region III of the Department of Labor filed a complaint against Mastercraft and its president, and the following January, an evidentiary hearing was held at which the parties presented live testimony and submitted documentary evidence. The Administrative Law Judge issued his decision on November 5, 1979, as follows.
First. The ALJ found that there was some evidence to support the government's charge that some of Mastercraft's employees who were hired as furniture movers, laborers, or helpers actually performed duties normally performed by apprentices or journeymen carpet layers. He also found, however, that the company and its president neither authorized nor encouraged such activities by these employees, but that, to the contrary, when management observed any furniture mover engage in activities outside his job function, it invariably instructed him to cease doing so immediately.
Second. With respect to the Department of Labor's charge that Mastercraft improperly altered employee time cards and underpaid its employees, the ALJ determined that, because many of the government buildings in which Mastercraft was removing and installing carpet were in close proximity to the employees' homes, employees were permitted to proceed to the work site directly from their homes without punching a time clock at the office. These employees were instructed, however, to call in and to report their starting and quitting times for recordation by a timekeeper. The ALJ found that many of the employees violated this trust and attempted to defraud Mastercraft by reporting more hours than they had actually worked, and that the company, upon learning of such practices, justifiably corrected their time cards.
In making this finding, the ALJ noted that
the general tone of the testimony and my personal observation of the demeanor of the witnesses leads me to conclude that, with very few exceptions, the . . . employees were attempting to cheat [Mastercraft] whenever and however possible and were generally unreliable and untrustworthy.
ALJ Decision Findings of Fact at 5 para. 15.
Third. Mastercraft stipulated that it had failed to pay the fringe benefits required by the contract from July through December 1977.
The ALJ found, however, that this failure to pay "was not intentional, but rather inadvertent."
Mastercraft likewise stipulated that it failed to pay the five-cents-an-hour apprenticeship training contribution for each hour worked by a carpet layer. The ALJ found that this, too, was excusable because Mastercraft honestly and logically but nevertheless erroneously assumed that it did not have to pay such contributions because it did not have apprentices or an apprenticeship training program.
Fourth. With respect to yet another violation charged, the ALJ found that Mastercraft complied with the notice requirements of the contract and the Act by posting the terms and conditions of employment as well as the rate of compensation required under the contract.
Fifth. The ALJ found that Mastercraft's records were generally accurate and adequate. In his view, based on evidence that he found credible, those discrepancies and errors that did exist were not committed willfully with an intent to avoid the requirements of the contract and the Act but were "the result of an honest effort by the Employer to maintain accurate records of the actual time worked by his employees and to keep from being defrauded by said employees." Findings of Fact at 7 para. 25.
As a result of the violations listed above, the ALJ held that Mastercraft owed its employees $6,218.30 in fringe benefits.
He further held that, in failing to pay the fringe benefits, plaintiffs breached the contract and violated the Act and regulations and were therefore subject to the debarment provisions of section 5(a) of the Service Contract Act, 41 U.S.C. § 354(a).
The ALJ went on to recommend to the Secretary, however, that plaintiffs be relieved from the ineligible list provisions of Section 5(a), based upon the "unusual circumstances" of the case.
The Department of Labor appealed the ALJ decision, and on November 4, 1981, the Administrator for the Wage and Hour Division issued a 13-page decision, finding in favor of the Department on all issues. The first twelve pages of this opinion consists of a verbatim repetition of the Statement of the Case, the Argument, and the Conclusion found in the government's brief. The only words added by the Administrator were the following:
On the basis of the entire record, I find that the views expressed by the Government in its exceptions, as set out above are supported by the evidence in the record, are in accordance with applicable law, and are proper. Accordingly, to the extent that the findings and conclusions contained in the decision of the Administrative Law Judge are consistent with such views they were affirmed; to the extent that they are inconsistent with such views, they are set aside and the Judge's decision is modified to accord with the views expressed by the Government in its exceptions.