Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Department of Labor sues El Paso A.R.C. Electric and company officers for retaliating against employees who exercised their workplace rights
EL PASO, Texas -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against El Paso A.R.C. Electric Inc. and two of its officers following an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found the company violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act by firing two workers for exercising their rights under the law.
“We have found compelling evidence that A.R.C. Electric illegally fired employees for exercising their rights under the FLSA and, as demonstrated by the filing of this lawsuit, the department will vigorously pursue the defendants to hold them accountable for their actions and ensure compliance with the law,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. “Employees have a voice in the workplace and must be able to exercise their rights and cooperate in federal investigations without fear of retribution. This lawsuit sends a clear message to our nation’s workers that we are here to protect them, and that we will use all available enforcement tools, including litigation, to stop employers from engaging in retaliatory conduct.”
An investigation conducted by the division’s Albuquerque District Office found that two of the company’s workers were wrongfully terminated for filing a complaint against the employer and providing statements to Wage and Hour Division investigators. The termination of the employees after they rightfully filed a complaint with the government and cooperated in the subsequent investigation is in direct violation of the FLSA’s non-retaliation clause that protects workers from being retaliated against for exercising their rights under the FLSA.
The department’s suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in El Paso against El Paso A.R.C. Electric Inc.; Eulogio “Cano” Ortiz, the company’s president; and Angel Ortiz, the company’s vice president. The lawsuit seeks to recover for the affected workers lost wages, liquidated damages, employment reinstatement and other appropriate remedies to which they may be entitled under the FLSA because of their unlawful terminations. The department’s suit also requests the court to permanently enjoin the defendants from future violations of the FLSA.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
It is a violation of the FLSA for any person to discharge, or in any other manner discriminate against any employee, because the employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to the FLSA, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.
Any employee who is discharged or in any other manner discriminated against because, for instance, he filed a complaint or cooperated in an investigation, may file a retaliation complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or may file a private cause of action seeking appropriate remedies including, but not limited to, employment reinstatement, lost wages and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), or its Albuquerque District Office at 505- 248-6100. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.