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US Department of Labor files discrimination lawsuit against Diamond Tree Experts in Salt Lake City
Investigation found employee terminated for refusing to return wages earned
SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Diamond Tree Experts Inc. after an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by discriminating against employees for exercising their rights under the law.
A previous investigation by the division's Salt Lake City District Office found that Diamond Tree Experts, a tree-trimming and stump-removal company, paid straight-time for all hours worked rather than overtime compensation at time and one-half employees' regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, as required by the FLSA. Investigators found that Diamond Tree Experts paid the back wages found due in that investigation, but then required employees to return the funds to the company. When one of the employees refused to do so, they were terminated.
"Two employees who were paid more than $7,500 in overtime back wages following our initial investigation were instructed to reimburse the company for the wages they rightfully earned," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "Requiring the return of an employee's earnings, and retaliation of the employee, is illegal and unacceptable. This lawsuit should send a clear message to employers who consider such tactics. The department will use whatever enforcement tools are necessary, including litigation, to ensure that workers receive and keep the wages they have earned, and to ensure that employers who blatantly ignore the law are brought to justice."
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Utah in Salt Lake City against Diamond Tree Experts Inc. and it owner, Robert Trent Van Dam. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, back wages, liquidated damages, reinstatement and other damages to be determined.
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.
The FLSA also contains a nonretaliation clause that protects workers from retaliation for exercising their rights under the FLSA. Any employee who is discharged or in any other manner discriminated against because, for instance, he has 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 Salt Lake City District Office at 801-524-5706. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
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