Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
PHOENIX -- An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has uncovered systemic violations of the minimum wage requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act at several Octopus Car Wash locations in the Tucson area, resulting in the employer paying $313,333 in back wages to 292 current and former workers. The franchisee, who owns Thornydale Octopus Car Wash Inc., 22nd Street Octopus Car Wash, Inc., and Valencia Octopus Car Wash Inc., each doing business as Octopus Car Wash, has also agreed to pay a civil money penalty for violating the child labor provisions of the FLSA at the Thornydale Rd. location.
“A significant portion of these employees’ work hours went unrecorded and unpaid. These are vulnerable, low-wage workers who worked nearly 40 hours each week, but were only being paid for 25-30 hours, which is unlawful and unfair to them and their families,” said Eric Murray, director of the Phoenix District Office, which conducted the investigation. “Time spent waiting for customers is considered work time and is compensable under the FLSA. Employers subject to the FLSA are obligated to find out what the law requires because for them, ignorance of the law is not an excuse,” he said.
Investigators found that employees were routinely put in non-pay status when business was slow. Workers were instructed to wait on the premises until a manager or supervisor put them back on the clock and in paid work status. Investigators found employees typically waited for three hours over the course of a work day. 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 for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights.
The employer has paid a civil money penalty after investigators found one 14-year-old and two 15-year-olds working more than 8 hours per day at one of the locations. The FLSA limits the number of hours 14- and 15-year-olds may work to no more than eight hours, and less on days when school is in session. Rules for youth employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act can be found online at www.youthrules.dol.gov.
The employer has paid the back wages in full, though more than 200 former workers have not yet been located. This franchise is an independent franchisee of the Octopus Car Wash chain. Franchises also operate in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. The Wage and Hour Division has developed a fact sheet addressing proper pay practices at car wash operations to help employers and workers understand rules for the industry, available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs76.htm.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or the division’s Phoenix District Office at 602-514-7100. Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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