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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [03/20/2014]
Contact Name: Diana Petterson or Juan Rodriguez
Phone Number: (972) 850-4710 or x4709
Email:
Petterson.Diana@dol.gov or Rodriguez.Juan@dol.gov
Release Number: 14-0470-DAL

US Department of Labor seeks a temporary
restraining order to protect local workers from retaliation

Department investigating wage violations at McAllen, Texas, produce distributor

McALLEN, Texas — The U.S. Department of Labor has filed an action in the U.S. District Court in McAllen seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to protect workers from retaliation and threats of retaliation from some ISPE Produce Inc. officials.

The department's Wage and Hour Division is currently investigating ISPE Produce under the minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"Employee intimidation and coercion will not be tolerated. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against any employee who files a complaint or cooperates in a Wage and Hour investigation," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "We will leverage any resources necessary to ensure that a fair investigation is conducted and workers are protected."

During the investigation, the employer required workers to leave the job site when Wage and Hour investigators arrived to conduct interviews. Company officials threatened workers with termination of employment and deportation for cooperating with the department. The temporary restraining order asks the court to enjoin the owner and two company officials from continuing threatening and retaliatory conduct aimed at employees who cooperate in the Wage and Hour investigation.

The department also seeks an order requiring the owner or a department employee to read aloud a statement to all employees informing them of their right to speak with Wage and Hour investigators without fear of retaliation; to post a copy of the statement at all ISPE Produce work sites; and to prohibit the owner and named officials from speaking directly to employees about the Wage and Hour investigation.

Workers seeking more information about federal wage laws or those who need assistance can call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its McAllen District Office at 956-682-4361. Information is also available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses, piece-rate earnings and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Additionally, the law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees and requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment.