I recently came across an interesting blog post on Mike Purdy’s Public Contracting Blog that includes a report by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries releasing an updated list of debarred contractors in Washington. The post itself highlights the hugely important issue of contractor debarment that every state or federal contractor should be aware of.
Basically, if you significantly violate certain laws as a contractor on a state or federal construction project (i.e. prevailing wage laws and workers’ compensation laws), you may be debarred and no longer allowed to work on a state or federal construction project. Pretty serious stuff.
Debarment may last until all penalties are paid in full or, if those laws are violated on numerous occasions, a contractor might be debarred for a period of years on top of monetary fines.
The report by the Washington State Department of Labor cited above provides folks with some concrete data on this issue so we can all better understand what most frequently causes debarment. The report includes the names of all Washington State contractors who are debarred, why they were debarred, how long they are debarred for, and whether or not their penalties have been paid.
Though this report only regards debarment by Washington State authorities for Washington State projects, each state has its own annually updated list you can refer to online, as does the federal government. All in all, they look a lot like the Washington list.
So, most importantly, how can public contractors avoid debarment? The answer here I can give you: focus on prevention.
First, be certain that you are not violating any prevailing wage laws, workers’ compensation laws, contractor registration laws, apprenticeship requirements, and/or industrial insurance laws. Read up on the laws yourself if possible (we have some information about state and federal contracting laws on this blog), or hire a lawyer to help you. In the long run, the money you spend with an attorney to understand and accommodate these legalities will be worth it.
Second, check the relevant state or federal list of debarred contractors to make sure you’re not signing a contract with a debarred contractor or subcontractor.
Finally, keep meticulous records and be extra careful to make sure you are complying with these laws.
Doing whatever it takes to keep your contracting business alive and thriving is key here, so make sure to remain proactive.