BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against an Ohio-based painting company that allegedly failed to pay more than $2 million in wages to its employees.

M&J Painting Inc. and Michael Kerpelis, the company's owner, allegedly intentionally failed to pay all wages due to employees and knowingly submitted false payroll records that supported the company's payment claims on a public construction project. Coakley alleges M&J violated state prevailing wage and overtime laws, engaged in unfair competition and violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act.

"We allege this company failed to pay its employees in accordance with the law, and obtained an unfair cost advantage over law-abiding competitors," Coakley said. "The enforcement of these laws is essential in maintaining a level playing field for all businesses that play by the rules and protecting the rights of our workers."

In May 2011, Coakley's office received complaints alleging that M&J failed to pay some of its employees for all their hours on a $13 million public construction project in Somerset and Fall River. Coakley alleges M&J failed to pay employees more than $2 million in prevailing wages and overtime wages between March 2010 and November 2011. M&J also allegedly knowingly underreported the hours worked by dozens of its employees to give the appearance that it was in compliance with Massachusetts law.

Misrepresenting how workers are compensated represents a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. False records and false statements related to payment violate the Massachusetts False Claims Act. The False Claims Act authorizes Coakley to sue entities that submit false claims for payment to political subdivisions or the state government.

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