Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Birmingham District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has announced the launch of a new enforcement initiative focusing on small independent and franchise grocery stores throughout Mississippi and Alabama, where the Wage and Hour Division has found significant and systemic minimum wage, overtime and child labor violations. This initiative contributes to the agency’s goal to achieve sustainable and system-wide compliance in industries with high concentrations of low-wage and vulnerable workers.
In 2007 and 2008, the Wage and Hour Division conducted more than 125 investigations in the small grocery industry, finding more than $114,000 in minimum wage and overtime back wages for 340 low-wage workers who were denied fair compensation for all hours worked. These investigations also disclosed more than 180 federal child labor violations, resulting in $230,000 in civil money penalties.
“We have found that small grocery stores consistently exceed the time and work hour limitations established for 14- and 15-year old employees, and commonly require minors to perform prohibited hazardous tasks, such as operating power-driven meat slicing machines and trash compactors. In addition, vulnerable adult workers in this industry are often denied fair wages for their full work periods,” said Kenneth Stripling, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Birmingham. “We plan to make unannounced visits to small grocery stores in these two states to ensure that employers are not exploiting their employees and that their business practices are not putting law-abiding companies at a disadvantage.”
As part of this initiative, investigators will visit stores to review their employment of minors and to determine whether employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act are being paid for all hours worked, including overtime pay when their hours exceed 40 in a workweek.
The department is engaging key employer associations such as the Alabama Grocers Association, Associated Grocers of the South Inc. and the Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co. to provide employers with child labor and FLSA wage compliance assistance information, and secure continued and industry-wide cooperation to enhance the effectiveness of the initiative.
Similarly, the Wage and Hour Division will conduct outreach to employee constituencies including community, faith-based and labor organizations to demonstrate the Labor Department’s commitment to addressing systemic violations and to encourage vulnerable workers to come forward with complaints.
The FLSA requires that covered workers to be paid the federal minimum wage for all hours worked, and time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 in a week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records. The FLSA also restricts the working hours of minors and prohibits the employment of people under the age of 18 in any nonagricultural occupations that the Labor Department has declared hazardous.
For more information on this initiative or on FLSA, contact the Wage and Hour Division’s District Office in Birmingham at 205-397-7100 or call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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