RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Labor Department says it's working to ensure construction workers in Virginia are being compensated properly.

Officials say they are conducting an enforcement initiative aimed at protecting workers against wage violations in the state's construction industry.

According to the department, large companies such as developers and prime contractors are increasingly subcontracting work to smaller companies that employ workers on-site or to other workers with skills like masonry, carpentry and electrical work. Those subcontractors face pressure to lower their costs because there are so many competitors, and many of the subcontractors cut costs at the expense of workers.

"This initiative underscores our commitment to protecting construction workers against exploitation and ensuring a level playing field for honest employers who should not have to face unfair downward pressure in order to stay competitive," Bruce Clark, the division's district director in Richmond, said in a news release.

The agency says that its Richmond office has conducted 230 investigations of construction industry employers since 2008. Those investigations have resulted in the recovery of more than $1.6 million in back wages for about 1,800 employees. The most common violations include not paying workers for all hours worked, not paying overtime, paying rates that result in compensation below minimum wage and misclassifying workers as independent contractors to get around wage laws.

The initiative includes investigations of large construction projects to assess compliance among general contractors, subcontractors and all other businesses providing services. Investigators are reviewing employment practices and pay records to identify and address violations.

The agency says it also is reaching out to workers, industry associations, unions, state and local agencies, and others to promoting industrywide accountability.