Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.
Court orders hotel owner to pay more than $180K in back wages, damages to 200 workers across North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota
FARGO, N.D. — A Fargo-based hotel owner who cheated his workers out of their wages must pay more than $180,000 to approximately 200 current and former workers at 15 North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota hotels.
The U.S. District Court of North Dakota has entered a consent judgment ordering Bharat I. Patel to pay back wages and liquidated damages to resolve a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota.
An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division found Patel failed to pay front-desk clerks, housekeeping staff and other hotel employees overtime and at least the minimum wage, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
"The judge upheld our findings, and Patel has agreed to pay these employees the wages they rightfully earned," said Betty Campbell, Acting Regional Administrator in Denver. "Restoring these earned wages will make a meaningful difference in the quality of life for these workers and their families. All employees deserve fair compensation for hard work."
Patel violated the FLSA by paying hourly employees straight-time pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek and failed to pay the legally required time and one-half. Additional overtime violations occurred when he failed to combine hours for employees who worked at two locations in the same workweek.
Investigators also found that Patel incorrectly classified some workers as exempt salaried employees. This practice resulted in some employees not receiving minimum wage for all hours worked and not being paid overtime. Additionally, the company failed to maintain accurate records of all hours worked and pay rates.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office was pleased to partner with the department to enforce federal minimum wage and overtime laws in the District of North Dakota," said Christopher C. Myers, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota. "It is unjust when workers are denied their earned wages. Moreover, businesses gain an unfair advantage over their competitors when they fail to follow the rules."
Employees helped by the ruling worked at the following hotels:
- Econo Lodge East, Econo Lodge West, Fargo Quality Inn, Super 8 Fargo, Howard Johnson and Quality Suites, in Fargo.
- Hampton Inn and Suites, in Jamestown.
- Travel Inn, Super 8 Motel and Travel Host Motel, which operates as the Relax Inn, in Dickinson, and Super 8, in Valley City.
- Rodeway Inn, in Wahpeton.
- Super 8 Glendive and Comfort Inn Glendive, in Glendive, Montana.
- Country Inn and Suites in Alexandria, Minnesota.
In addition to paying back wages and damages, the court ordered Patel to comply with the FLSA's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements. He has agreed to train management personnel on FLSA wage requirements and to provide workers information on wage laws and contact information for the Wage and Hour Division for at least four years.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota. The U.S. Attorney's Office collaborated with the department in the case's litigation because of the serious and widespread violations.
The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for workers employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions. To qualify for an exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status.
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 hourly rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. 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. Additionally, the law requires employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records and prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
For more information about the FLSA, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/ or call the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
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Perez v. Patel,et al
Civil Action Number: 3:14-cv-00122-RRE-KKK