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News Brief

Fresno recycling company pays $30K in back wages, damages to six workers after US Labor Department investigation

Minimum wage violations affected employees identified as ‘helpers’

Employer: Buy Back Inc.

Locations: 1405 W. Shields Ave., Fresno
1435 S. Cedar Ave., Fresno
3190 E. Tulare St., Fresno
370 B St., Fresno
1435 Fresno St., Fresno

Investigation findings: Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that Buy Back violated the minimum wage and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company collects and recycles aluminum, plastic and glass in five locations in Fresno, California, as a CalRecycle program participant.

The employer paid homeless workers identified as ‘helpers’ either a daily rate, food and drinks, or a few dollars regardless of the hours worked – resulting in the company’s failure to pay workers at least $7.25 per hour, in violation of  the federal minimum wage requirements. Affected employees worked assisting customers, sorting recycling materials, dumping recyclables into chained baskets and cleaning the locations at the end of the day. Recordkeeping violations resulted from the employer’s failure to record all the hours employees worked and their rates of pay.

Resolution: Buy Back has paid $15,272 in back wages and an equal, additional amount in damages to six employees.

Quote: “These vulnerable workers held up their end of the bargain and provided their hard work – they deserve to be paid every cent they have legally earned,” said Nora Pedraza, assistant district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Fresno. “Designating someone a ‘helper’ instead of an employee does not allow companies to avoid paying minimum wage. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to continuing its work in this industry and in others where our data and evidence show vulnerable workers are more likely subject to these types of violations.”

Background:  In 2015, the division began an education and enforcement initiative in the Southern California recycling industry. Working with the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery on joint investigations and sharing facility information, the division found violations of the FLSA in more than 77 percent of facilities investigated.

Information: The FLSA requires that employers pay covered, nonexempt workers at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus overtime at one and one-half times their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who exercise their rights.

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.

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
October 12, 2016
Release Number
16-1995-SAN
Contact: Leo Kay
Phone Number
Contact: Jose Carnevali