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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [09/17/2013]
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: 13-1839-DEN

U.S. District Court orders Diamond Tree Experts to pay $44,000 in back wages and damages after firm demands kickbacks from employees

Court order follows second investigation by US Labor Department

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment and injunction against Salt Lake City-based Diamond Tree Experts and its owner, Robert Trent Van Dam, prohibiting both from retaliating against employees who refused to kickback mandatory overtime pay following an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division. Diamond Tree Experts will need to pay $44,000 in back wages and damages.

A previous investigation by the division's Salt Lake City District Office found that Diamond Tree Experts, a tree-trimming and stump-removal company, paid straight-time for all hours worked rather than time and one-half the employees' regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Investigators found that Diamond Tree Experts paid the back wages in that investigation, but then required employees to return the funds to the company. When one of the employees refused to do so, his employment was terminated. After investigating the kickback allegation, the department filed suit against the company and the owner, seeking back pay for affected workers and an injunction against future retaliation.

"The department will use every enforcement tool necessary, including litigation, to ensure workers receive and keep the wages they have earned and to ensure that employers who blatantly ignore the law are brought to justice," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "Requiring the return of an employee's earnings and retaliating against the employee are illegal and unacceptable practices. This injunction should send a clear message to employers who consider such tactics."

The injunction, entered by Judge Robert J. Shelby, U.S. District Court of Utah, is part of a settlement agreement reached by the department and the defendants. Under the terms of the settlement, affected employees will receive $22,000 in back pay and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Diamond Tree Experts and Van Dam are prohibited from violating the minimum wage, overtime and anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA. The anti-retaliation provision prohibits the employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee who files a complaint or cooperates in an investigation, including those who request or receive required overtime pay.

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 of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers are also required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

The FLSA also contains a nonretaliation clause that protects workers from retaliation for exercising their rights under the act. Any employee who is discharged, or in any other manner discriminated against, because he has filed a complaint or cooperated in an investigation, may file a retaliation complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or may file a private cause of action seeking appropriate remedies including, but not limited to, employment, reinstatement, lost wages and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.

For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Salt Lake City District Office at 801-524-5706. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.