Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department seeks to recover more than $85,000 in back wages, damages for 21 workers at Cincinnati-area animal hospital facilities
Company also facing fines for repeated and willful violations of Fair Labor Standards Act
CINCINNATI -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a petition in U.S. district court in Cincinnati seeking to recover from Hamilton Avenue Animal Hospital $85,253 in back wages and damages for 21 workers at its two locations, Hamilton Avenue Animal Hospital in Pleasant Run and Sycamore Animal Hospital in Symmes Township. An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division determined that the company and its owners, Michael Cable and Stephanie Cable, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring some animal handlers to pay earned overtime premium wages back to them. The petition also seeks to hold the defendants in contempt for violating an injunction entered in a 2007 court order.
The latest investigation found that the employers falsified payroll records for workers at both locations by showing the overtime compensation as having been paid. The employer would pay workers the full amount due, including overtime compensation, then require the workers to give back the overtime portion in cash. The animal handlers, who worked 60-70 hours per week, were referred to the Wage and Hour Division by advocacy groups Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center and Su Casa Hispanic Ministry.
Investigators determined that $42,628.58 in overtime compensation is due to the 21 workers for the period of Jan. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2010. An equal amount equivalent to statutory liquidated damages is also being sought. In addition, the Labor Department has assessed $23,100 in civil money penalties for these willful violations of the FLSA.
"This is a particularly egregious case in which vulnerable workers, some of whom lived on the premises and spoke little English, were taken advantage of by their employer," said Nancy Leppink, acting administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division. "The employers clearly understood their legal obligations but took advantage of workers they believed would not stand up for their rights. But the workers did, and the Wage and Hour Division was able to help them. Employers have a legal obligation to abide by the wage laws of our nation and a moral obligation to treat their workers with common decency."
This is the fourth time the company has been investigated for alleged violations of the FLSA. Hamilton Avenue Animal Hospital is subject to a 2007 court-ordered injunction not to violate the FLSA as a result of an earlier Labor Department suit filed against it for failing to pay $9,225.01 in back wages to 19 employees. Those wages have since been paid.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.
The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing federal labor laws pertaining to the minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, child labor and special employment, family and medical leave, migrant workers, lie detector tests, worker protections in certain temporary worker programs, and the prevailing wages for government service and construction contracts.
Collectively, these labor standards cover most private, state and local government employment. They protect more than 135 million workers in more than 7.3 million establishments throughout the United States and its territories. For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, 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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