Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Viharas Group Inc., doing business as DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in Tucson, and owner Ashok Kumar Patel, will pay $41,915 in back wages, liquidated damages and interest to 44 employees as part of a consent judgment obtained in federal court by the U.S. Department of Labor. An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the independently owned and operated hotel willfully violated the overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The defendants were ordered to pay an additional $9,800 in civil money penalties due to the intentional nature of the violations.
“These low-wage hotel employees often worked up to 50 hours a week, but were the victims of a scheme that management utilized to deprive them of their rightful overtime pay,” said Eric Murray, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Phoenix District Office. “The resolution of this lawsuit demonstrates the department’s commitment to pursuing violators vigorously to ensure compliance with the law. Other hotel and motel employers should learn from this case and review their own practices to ensure their workers are paid the legally required wages for all work hours.”
Investigators found that management deliberately deleted from the electronic time system most overtime hours worked by employees, then recorded those hours on separate, manual time sheets. They then paid the workers cash wages for those hours at rates much lower than their legally required overtime rates. The FLSA requires payment at time and one-half an employee’s regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Investigators found that 12 day laborers were also paid straight-time wages for all hours worked, without proper overtime compensation.
In addition to paying back wages, liquidated damages, interest and civil money penalties, the judgment prohibits the defendants from violating the FLSA in the future. Under the terms of this judgment, the employer agreed to revise the employee handbook to include information regarding the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping, and anti-retaliation requirements. The employer must also hire an independent third-party to conduct mandatory FLSA training for all current employees and supervisors.
The consent judgment was entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The Office of the Solicitor in Los Angeles litigated this case.
The hotel and motel industry employs many low-wage workers who, due to a lack of knowledge of the law or an unwillingness to exercise their rights, are vulnerable to disparate treatment and labor violations. Because of the prevalence of noncompliance with federal labor laws in this industry, the Wage and Hour Division is concentrating its resources on investigating and remedying violations, informing workers of their rights, helping restore wages due to workers and providing compliance assistance to employers. Since 2009, the division has concluded more than 5,300 cases involving hotel and motel employers, resulting in more than $17.2 million in back wages for more than 31,000 workers nationwide.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt 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 under the law. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are generally liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.
For additional information about the FLSA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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