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US Labor Department sues Phoenix electrical contractor for unpaid overtime wages owed to 200 workers
Type of Action: Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit filing
Name of Defendants: Austin Electric Services LLC
Complaint: The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Austin Electric Services, and its president Toby Thomas, after the department’s Wage and Hour Division investigators found the Phoenix-area residential electrical contractor violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s provisions on overtime and recordkeeping. The latest investigation marks the third time in the past five years the department has found this employer in violation of federal labor laws.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, the complaint alleges the defendants willfully and repeatedly violated – and continue to violate – the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions by failing to pay some electricians overtime. Instead, the firm pays workers a piece rate, without regard to how many hours they work. The complaint also alleges that Austin Electric and Thomas knowingly provided the department with falsified records of hours worked. The department also alleges managers instructed electricians who worked between 45 and 70 hours per week to record only 40 hours or less of work on their timesheets.
Resolution: The complaint seeks the payment of overtime back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages for 200 employees, and also asks the court to enjoin the company and its owners from violating the FLSA in the future.
Quote: “We will not tolerate an employer that continues to violate the law and deprive workers of their hard-earned overtime wages,” said Eric Murray, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s district office in Phoenix. “The fact that we have found Austin Electric in violation multiple times in the last five years makes their actions all the more egregious. This lawsuit demonstrates that we will use every enforcement tool available to us, and that we will follow through to hold employers accountable and to ensure that workers are paid every penny they have rightfully earned.”
Background: The division investigated Austin Electric in 2012 and found the employer misclassified field electricians and other workers as independent contractors. A 2013 follow-up investigation resulted in $23,885 in back wages due to 72 employees misclassified again as independent contractors. Most of the back wages due were the result of overtime violations. In 2013, Austin Electric also paid $9,424 in penalties for the willful nature of the violations found.
Information: The FLSA requires that covered, non-exempt 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, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records, and are prohibited from retaliating against workers who exercise their rights under the law.
For more information about federal wage laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, or to file a complaint, call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). All services are free and confidential. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
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