Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
NEWTON, Kan. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Kansas seeking back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages for 81 workers of Country Fresh Foods in Newton. The Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act during a recent investigation at the food production and distribution facility. The company allegedly failed to compensate workers for multiple mandatory breaks, resulting in the overtime violations.
“Wage and Hour found that many of these low-wage workers had to stay an extra 30 to 45 minutes daily beyond their eight-hour shifts. For these workers, many of whom are women with families, that extra time without extra pay had a real and damaging impact on their families. These women pay for child care or work shift work to care for other family members, and their time is precious to them” said Patricia Preston, the Wage and Hour district director in Kansas City, Mo. “The department is committed to ensuring workers are paid fairly, in accordance with the FLSA.”
Wage and Hour Division investigators found that Countr0079 Fresh Foods consistently required that employees, who worked more than 40 hours a week, clock out for multiple, mandatory 15-minute breaks. These breaks generally were used to clean the facility to ensure it met code, and that extended the normal working day. The uncompensated break time resulted in overtime violations. Breaks or rest periods of five to 20 minutes are common in many industries and promote employee efficiency. These breaks are considered paid work time under the FLSA.
The company has agreed to begin compensating for the breaks immediately and will comply with the overtime provisions of the FLSA in the future. The department filed the lawsuit to compel the company to pay $127,758 to 81 workers, which represents back wages of $63,879 and an additional $63,879 in liquidated damages for violations through Aug. 18, 2012.
The FLSA, adopted in 1938, requires that covered, nonexempt employees are 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 and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
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 visit http://www.dol.gov/whd.
Seth D. Harris, Acting Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor v. County Fresh Foods LCC and Randy D. Durr
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