Sheet Metal Workers Int'l Assoc. v. Horning Invs., LLC, No. 15-1004 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
In 2011, Horning won the subcontract for roofing work at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Davis‐Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 3141–43, requires contractors who perform construction for the federal government to pay their workers the “prevailing wage.” Department of Labor regulations at that time set the base rate for a Dayton Sheet Metal Worker at $26.41 per hour; the fringe benefit rate was another $16.82 an hour. The workers were properly classified and received the appropriate base rate. All employees who work at Horning for more than 90 days are eligible for insurance; some receive vacation days. After a year, they become eligible for matching contributions to a 401(k) account. Accountants advised Horning about the amount to deposit into its benefits trust to comply with ERISA and Davis‐Bacon. Horning deducted a flat hourly fee from the paycheck of each Medical Center worker, regardless of whether the employee was eligible for any benefits. The amount did not correspond to the actual monetary value of the benefits each individual employee received. The Union filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, rather than filing under Davis-Bacon. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of Horning. Under the False Claims Act, the Union had to show that Horning knowingly made false statements (or misleading omissions) that were material to the government’s payment decision. The Union did not proffer enough evidence to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that Horning acted with such knowledge.