A Boston commission charged with enforcing a decades-old city diversity hiring policy issued its first fines Wednesday, penalizing two construction companies a combined $20,700 for failing to file the number of hours that Boston residents, women and people of color have worked on recent projects.

Wednesday’s vote to sanction the two contractors marks the first time the Boston Employment Commission has fined a construction company for violating the city’s Residents Jobs Policy.

“This should be a message to all of the general contractors that the commission is definitely looking at everything," Commissioner Darrin Howell said during the special meeting to consider sanctions. "And if we're seeing discrepancies or you're trying to take advantage of a situation, then you will be subject to these types of fines,”

The two subcontractors that city commissioners fined are Bridgeline General Construction in Acton and Dykeman Welding and Fabrication in Lawrence. Kaplan Construction — the lead contractor on the city-funded, 43-unit affordable rental housing project in Roxbury — will be responsible for paying the fine on behalf of its subcontractors.

Company representatives could not be reached for comment, but the general contractor for the project that incurred fines told commissioners that smaller subcontractors often lack the staff to file labor paperwork within the city’s 7-day requirement.

"A lot of times, there's one person back-of-house, or the owner is in the field working all day and has limited time at the end of the day or energy to jump on their computer and get some of these things done,” said Nathan Peck, president of Kaplan Construction.

Commissioners rejected recommendations from André Lima, in the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, to issue sanctions and fines against several other contractors that would have totaled more than $700,000 – all of them for failing to meet city deadlines for reporting their work hours. Some of those firms were minoirty- or women-owned.

Several commissioners said they avoided sanctions in those cases because the contractors actually had strong track records for hiring Boston residents, workers of color and women.

“I'm not in favor of dinging somebody for paperwork when they're delivering results,” said Commissioner Travis Watson.

The city jobs policy requires work crews on most major building projects in the city to be 51% Boston residents, 40% people of color and 12% women, whether private or funded by the city. Boston passed ordinance in 1983 and updated it in 2017 under Mayor Marty Walsh. GBH News reported in 2020 that the commission had never in its history issued sanctions; in 2021 the commission updated its policies to allow for sanctions, but the commission still cannot fine contractors for failing to hit those hiring targets. It can now sanction companies that don’t submit their labor information to the city in a timely fashion or attend corrective meetings.

Still, the two contractors fined by the city had also posted low hiring numbers, in addition to their paperwork failures.

Bridgeline reported that less than two percent of the workhours on the Roxbury project went to Boston residents and none to women, but workers of color had logged 99% of the subcontractors’ hours.

“It's like they just brought them in from out of town,” said JocCole Burton, the commission chairwoman.
For Dykeman, city reports showed 45% of its hours were logged by workers of color, but none by Boston residents or women.

Both subcontractors are allowed to appeal the commission’s fine.