Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department sues Chelsea, Mass., flooring company to recover back wages and damages for nearly 100 employees
Payment, reinstatement also sought for employee fired after requesting proper overtime wages
BOSTON -- The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Chelsea-based Herrera's Floors, a floor installation business, and owner Osmin Herrera for alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit was filed following an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division that found the defendants had violated the overtime, record-keeping and retaliatory discharge provisions of the FLSA.
Investigators found that the defendants willfully and repeatedly failed to pay employees for all hours worked, including travel time and other work performed prior to arriving at job sites in several New England states. Many employees were misclassified as independent contractors and consequently paid "straight time" for overtime hours worked instead of one and one-half times their regular rates, as required. The defendants also refused to make payroll records available to the department in a timely manner, including after a subpoena was issued. In August, the defendants unlawfully discharged an employee who requested overtime compensation for hours worked beyond 40 per week and refused to work additional overtime unless properly compensated.
"Not only did this employer underpay these employees and impede our investigation by refusing to provide required records, an employee who requested that he be paid properly for all hours worked was retaliated against," said Neil Patrick, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Hartford District Office in Connecticut, which oversaw the investigation. "Such behavior robs workers of their rightful wages and undercuts those hardworking and conscientious employers who obey the law. This lawsuit demonstrates that the department will use all enforcement tools available, including litigation, against companies and their officers to recover workers' wages and to ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers."
The department's suit asks the court to award nearly 100 employees both the back wages they are due and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The suit also asks the court to reinstate the terminated employee and for an injunction to permanently prohibit the defendants from future FLSA violations. The Wage and Hour Division referred the case to the Labor Department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston, which filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
This investigation was initiated as part of an ongoing, multiyear enforcement initiative focused on the construction industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island, in which the division has found widespread noncompliance with the FLSA. Rhode Island is one of the states in which Herrera's Floors does business.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half 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 department fact sheet "Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act" is available on the Wage and Hour Division's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs77a.htm.
For more information on the FLSA, contact the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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