Effective October 1, 2018, general contractors with projects in Maryland will have a new headache to deal with. That’s when Maryland’s new law, the General Contractor Liability for Unpaid Wages Act, will go into effect. Under the Act, GCs will be jointly and severally liable for the failure of any subcontractors on the GC’s project to comply with Maryland’s existing wage and hour law. GCs will have to ensure that all of their subcontractors (including any sub-subcontractors or other firms they hire) pay their employees in accordance with Maryland law.

Under the new Act, an employee can sue both its employer and the GC on the job for up to three times the wages owed to the employee, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. This applies to any job involving “construction services”, which is broadly defined to include any work involving “building, reconstructing, improving, enlarging, painting, altering, and repairing” of property.

Subcontractors will not be spared the effects of this new law. They are required to indemnify a GC for “any wages, damages, interest, penalties, or attorneys’ fees owed as a result of the subcontractor’s violation.” That means the failure to comply with Maryland’s wage and hour laws can expose a subcontractor to significantly greater liability than before.

GCs should prepare for the new reality by reviewing their subcontractor agreements to ensure they are protected. They also will want to implement protocols for reviewing the pay records of subcontractors and any sub-subcontractors or suppliers they hire.

In addition to the above compliance controls, subcontractors should be on the lookout for new indemnification language in subcontracts and the partial releases that most GCs require in exchange for periodic payment on construction projects.