WHD News Release: [11/29/2012]
Contact Name: Elizabeth Todd or Juan Rodriguez
Phone Number: (972) 850-4710 or x4709
Release Number: 12-2335-DAL
US Labor Department sues Dallas-based The Christmas Light Co. to secure more than $240,000 in minimum and overtime back wages
DALLAS The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against The Christmas Light Co. Inc. and owner William F. Rathburn to recover approximately $240,881 in wages and an additional amount in liquidated damages on behalf of 233 employers who installed and removed lights for the company. An investigation in Dallas by the department's Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay 233 installers and removers the minimum and overtime wages required by law.
"The Labor Department holds employers accountable when they do not properly pay their workers," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "Failing to pay minimum and overtime wages is unacceptable. Such behavior robs workers of their rightful wages and undercuts those hardworking and conscientious employers who obey the law. This lawsuit demonstrates that the department will use all enforcement tools available, including litigation, to recover workers' wages and ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers."
The complaint was filed in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division seeking back wages, liquidated damages and an injunction against future violations of the FLSA, which provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees.
The investigation determined that the company paid employees a flat rate for installing and removing Christmas lights without regard to the number of hours the employees had worked. Investigators also found that in most cases employees were paid "straight time" rather than overtime at time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week, as required. Additionally, records required by the FLSA were not maintained.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked. An overtime premium rate takes into account commissions, bonuses and incentive pay. Additionally, employers must maintain accurate time and payroll records.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Dallas office at 817-861-2150. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.