Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department investigation reveals Silicon Valley employer significantly underpaid workers from Mexico
Judge orders Bloom Energy Corp. to pay back wages, liquidated damages and penalties
SAN FRANCISCO -- Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Bloom Energy Corp. has been ordered to pay $31,922 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 14 workers that the company brought in from Chihuahua, Mexico, to the company headquarters. A U.S. District Court judge ordered the payments after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division disclosed that the employer willfully violated the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Bloom Energy brought the workers in from Mexico to refurbish power generators alongside U.S. workers. Investigators learned that the 14 workers were paid in Mexican pesos the equivalent of $2.66 per hour. Because of the willful nature of the violations found, the department also assessed $6,160 in civil money penalties against the employer.
“This investigation has remedied illegal pay practices for a group of workers subjected to substandard wages,” said Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the West. “It is appalling that this was happening right in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest per capita areas in the U.S. The department remains vigilant in protecting the rights of vulnerable workers and to ensuring they are paid the wages they have rightfully earned. This case demonstrates our commitment to making that happen.”
The FLSA prohibits employers from employing workers below the federal minimum wage and prohibits employers from shipping in commerce any goods produced in violation of its minimum wage, overtime, or child labor provisions. The Wage and Hour Division is required under the FLSA to investigate and bring actions in federal court to enjoin any acts which are unlawful due to employment in violation of these provisions
Bloom Energy is a manufacturer of clean energy power generating systems and contracts with major brand-name companies, such as Google Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kaiser Permanente, Coca-Cola Co., FedEx Corp., eBay Inc. and Bank of America Corp. The department requested that the employer not ship the goods produced in violation until the violations were resolved. The employer has paid the back wages, liquidated damages and penalties in full and has agreed to comply in the future with all FLSA requirements. The department also required that the employer to sign a consent judgment.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, as well as time and one-half their regular hourly rates of pay 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 FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees.
For more information about the requirements of the FLSA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or contact the division’s San Francisco office at 415-625-7720. Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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