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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [04/20/2011]
Contact Name: Leni Fortson or Joanna Hawkins
Phone Number: (215) 861-5102 or x5101
Release Number: 11-0443-NEW

US Labor Departmentís Wage and Hour Division launches initiative to protect New Jersey gas station workers

Agency aims to boost compliance with federal wage laws

MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division today announced an enforcement initiative focusing on New Jersey gas stations, at which the division previously found consistent and widespread noncompliance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This initiative is part of the division's goal to achieve sustainable and systemwide compliance in industries with high concentrations of vulnerable workers.

From 2007 to 2010, the division conducted nearly 100 investigations of New Jersey gas station employers, recovering more than $1.2 million in minimum wage and overtime back wages for 381 workers who were denied fair compensation for all hours of their work, in violation of the FLSA. These investigations also resulted in nearly $15,000 in civil money penalties assessed for FLSA violations.

"We have found that New Jersey gas stations are rife with violative pay practices such as paying workers a flat salary or 'straight time' wages for all hours, without regard to minimum wage and overtime requirements, or paying workers 'off the books,' rather than maintaining legally required payroll records," said George Ference, regional administrator of the Wage and Hour Division in the Northeast. "The Labor Department will not allow gas station employers — many of whom operate under the banner of multibillion-dollar corporations — to exploit workers and deprive them of their hard-earned wages."

New Jersey is one of only two remaining states in the country where motorists are barred from pumping their own gas, requiring gas stations to employ full-service attendants to operate gas pumps and provide other related customer services. The division is concerned about the large number of vulnerable gas station workers who are exposed to high levels of risk with respect to their wages and employment conditions, due to a variety of reasons including lack of legal knowledge or fear of job loss. As part of this initiative, the division will investigate gas stations to identify patterns of minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping violations. When violations are found, the division will vigorously pursue corrective action — including payment of back wages, civil money penalties and liquidated damages – to ensure accountability and deter future violations.

The division also will be conducting outreach to employer and employee associations, community organizations, government agencies, unions and other stakeholders to engage them in dialogue, solicit their input on enforcement strategies and encourage their participation in promoting compliance. The initiative will be led by the division's Mountainside District Office; telephone 908-317-8611.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 per week. In general, "hours worked" includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal work activity to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained.

For more information on the FLSA and other federal laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, call the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd.