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Aug
2012
14

After a Year in Court, Whistleblowers’ Complaints Finally Force Policy Changes at Roto-Rooter



In June of 2011, We Party Patriots posted a piece about three Massachusetts plumbers who spoke out against their employer, Roto-Rooter, for sending unqualified apprentices to jobs they were unlicensed to complete. This unscrupulous behavior broke state regulations in order to garner increased profits for the company.

Last week, a full year and change after these plumbers, led by Kristian Pederson, took action, the state fined Roto-Rooter $1,500 and ordered them to change their operating practices. The investigation was aided by one of the whistleblowers who last year said he wanted “to prove his license meant something.” From Cape Cod Online:

The consent agreement between the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters and Stoughton-based Nurotoco of Massachusetts stemmed from allegations that it “had apprentice plumbers perform plumbing work without the supervision of licensed journeymen plumbers, failed to obtain permits to perform plumbing work and failed to ensure that inspections of plumbing work were performed by the local plumbing and gas inspector” in Leominster, Charlton, Worcester and Hanover, according to a press release from the state’s division of professional licensure.

Roto-Rooter works on a commission system where apprentices make less than licensed professionals. By sending out apprentices they were able to pay their workers less while charging customers the same amount. According to an article published last year by DigBoston, this infuriated Pedersen:

Managers would get bonuses if they could get all the jobs done for as little as possible. So, instead of sending Pedersen to the important stuff, he was stuck on free estimates and other jobs where he was earning peanuts. Instead of $100,000 a year, he was making less than minimum wage, while the branch managers were raking in bonuses. Pedersen was kept around because his license helped make the branch look legit: “The State Board,” according to Pedersen, “mandates one apprentice per journeyman, no more. When I left the company, the ratio was 2 to1.”

This problem in particular struck a nerve with Pedersen, who helped train new employees.

When reached last week by Cape Cod Online, Pedersen said,

“I’m hoping this gives workers some protection and kind of empowers them to work on their terms,” said Pedersen, who lives in Middleboro. He said he feels “vindicated” by the state’s action.

The changes imposed on Roto-Rooter’s procedures include:

Having a master plumber obtain the permits for all plumbing work done by the company, monitor jobs and arrange local inspections,

Providing all dispatch and field staff with a current list, updated every month, showing all employees with board-issued journeyman licenses

Training all staff about state regulations,

Stopping jobs such as drain cleaning, performed by a technician or apprentice, immediately if it’s determined a licensed plumber must do the procedure, and assigning a journeyman plumber to complete the work.

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