Construction contractors working at Pulte Homes development sites were hit with more than $540,000 in fines and penalties yesterday for allegedly failing to pay dozens of employees.
The enforcement action was one of the largest in recent history focusing on the projects of a single home builder. Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said that the laborers at the Pulte sites, many Brazilian immigrants, were not paid regular wages or overtime for several weeks of work by five subcontractors. Back wages totaled more than $190,000.
Also, the state’s Office of Labor and Workforce Development found that six subcontractors for Pulte failed to pay unemployment taxes and misclassified workers as independent contractors - a maneuver officials said is often used to conceal fraudulent practices. The agency did not name the subcontractors in that action.
Among the nation’s largest home builders, Pulte Homes itself was not held liable for the alleged violations because it was not the direct employer of the workers.
“In this case, we charged all the companies we could reach,’’ said Joanne Goldstein, secretary of labor and workforce development. “It is frustrating that companies are insulated from liability but get the benefit of the misclassification or wage and hour violations.’’
In a statement yesterday, Pulte Homes’ parent company said it supports the state’s effort to enforce wage laws. “We fully expect that our contractors will pay their employees according to all state and local guidelines, and have such requirements within our vendor agreements,’’ the statement said.
The alleged violations occurred last year in Plymouth, Braintree, Natick, and Northbridge. Investigators said the subcontractors in question framed homes and condominiums for Pulte.
“All workers in the Commonwealth deserve to be paid for the wages they have earned, including their overtime,’’ Coakley said yesterday.
The investigation was coordinated by the state’s Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification, an entity created by the Patrick administration in 2008 to uncover fraudulent employment practices.
The fined contractors include:
■ Nunes Brothers Construction and its president, Tiago Aguiar M. Nunes, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were ordered to pay 23 workers $99,086.75 and fined $112,500.
■AM Construction Services and its president, Adimar Demoura, 32, of Framingham, were ordered to pay four workers $15,331.50 and fined $22,500.
■ Five Stars Construction and its president, Alexandre Miranda, 40, of Trumbull, Conn., were ordered to pay two workers $30,700 and fined $30,000.
■ Seven Seas Group and its president, Jackson Croscup, 55, of Fall River, were ordered to pay five workers $10,333 and fined $20,075.
■ Two Brothers Construction and its president, Wellington DeLima Borges, 41, of Natick, were ordered to pay six workers $34,751.50 and fined $34,500.
Attempts to reach the companies were unsuccessful yesterday.