Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Additional Information for Current and Former Employees of the Puerto Rico's Department of Corrections
What is the lawsuit about?
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week.
Under certain conditions, employees of State or local government agencies may receive compensatory (comp) time off, at a rate of not less than one and one-half hours for each overtime hour worked, instead of cash overtime pay. Law enforcement personnel may accrue or “bank” up to 480 hours of comp time.
In this case, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation failed to pay approximately 4,500 employees the overtime required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, and the Department of Correction regularly allowed employees’ comp time “banks” to greatly exceed 480 hours. The back wages found due for the employees in this case are the cash amounts of the unpaid comp time accrued in excess of this limit. For more information, please see Fact Sheet #7: State and Local Governments under the FLSA.
What is the current status of the lawsuit?
On April 5, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor has filed a consent judgment agreed to by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. In the consent judgment, the Commonwealth agreed to pay over $35 million in back wages and interest to current and former employees of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. On April 11, 2013, Judge Juan M. Pérez Giménez of the U.S. District Court for the Commonwealth of Puerto approved the consent judgment and the judgment is final.
Why did the parties agree to the settlement?
The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, conducted an extensive investigation of the facts of the case and the Solicitor’s Office evaluated the law relevant to the case. Based on this investigation and legal evaluation, the Department of Labor concluded that the settlement terms contained in the consent judgment achieve compliance with the law and are in the best interests of the workers affected. Because litigation can be a costly and lengthy endeavor, all parties involved have indicated that the agreement has been mutually agreed to and that they find it acceptable.
What has the employer agreed to do?
The Department of Corrections has agreed to pay all back wages owed for the violations and has agreed to ensure proper and timely overtime payments in the future. The employer is installing an electronic timekeeping system at its facilities, training supervisors in the use of the new timekeeping system, hiring additional staff to reduce the need for overtime, and adjusting daily tours of duty for guards.
The Department of Corrections will also designate a human resources liaison for each of its facilities to monitor payroll and to provide an option for resolving disputes and errors in a timely manner. Payroll disputes and errors will be tracked formally in the new system. All employees will receive a detailed wage statement each pay period accounting for all wages and deductions. Additionally, a report detailing the Department of Corrections’ compliance efforts will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division each year.
Finally, the Department of Corrections is required to engage in efforts to educate its workers about the terms in the consent judgment, its pay practices and law. It is required to provide written notice to all employees that this Consent Judgment has been entered, and to post copies, in both English and Spanish, at each of its facilities. It will also develop a fact sheet that it will provide to all current employees and new employees upon hire which describes federal overtime requirements, the employer’s payroll policies, and procedures for resolving payroll errors.
What is the settlement amount?
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has agreed to pay $35,037,586 in back wages and interest to approximately 4,500 employees of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
When will I be paid?
The Commonwealth is in the process of distributing its first payments of over $10 million to 4490 current and former employees. They are paying these back wages via checks to the employees. The future payments will be made via electronic funds transfer (EFT) payments where possible or by checks. The future payments will include interest.
The installment payments are as follows:
Employees that were owed $2,000.00 or less in back wages were paid off out of the first payment that was distributed on 7/31/2012.
The Department of Corrections is making every effort to locate and make payment to all current and former employees. The Department of Corrections will, within 120 days from each due date, deliver to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, a check representing the net total amount of overtime compensation plus post judgment interest, which the Department of Corrections was unable to distribute to employees, together with a list of the unpaid employees.
How do I find out if I am owed money and how much I am owed?
A list of all of the current and former Department of Corrections employees who are owed money under this consent judgment together with the amounts owed is attached to the judgment as Exhibit A.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division Puerto Rico District Office has set up a dedicated line for Department of Corrections’ employees to call for more information. Current and former employees with questions may call 787-775-1707. If a staff person does not answer immediately, they will return your call within the next business day.