U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Results in Federal Court Ordering West Virginia Company to Pay $1,635,804 in Back Wages, Damages
BRIDGEPORT, WV – After a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia has ordered Fire & Safety Investigation Consulting Services LLC, based in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and its owner Christopher Harris to pay 70 employees $817,902 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.
WHD investigators found that Fire & Safety Investigation Consulting Services LLC and Harris violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay employees overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. Instead, the company paid employees what they referred to as a "hitch rate," a fixed amount paid every two weeks, without regard to the number of hours employees actually worked. This practice resulted in overtime violations when employees worked beyond 40 hours in a single workweek, yet were not paid overtime in addition to their flat rates. Additionally, the company's failure to maintain records required by law resulted in recordkeeping violations.
"Just because a pay practice appears to be common within an industry, does not mean that it complies with the law," said John DuMont, WHD District Director. "Simply paying employees a salary does not necessarily mean they are not due overtime. We encourage all employers to review their pay practices and to contact the Wage and Hour Division for assistance."
"The investigation and the court's decision brings Fire & Safety Investigation Consulting Services into FLSA compliance, ensures that these safety consultants receive the wages they've earned, and helps to level the playing field for employers that abide by the law," said Regional Solicitor Oscar Hampton III.
Fire & Safety Investigation Consulting Services LLC provides on-site safety and environmental consulting services for the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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 for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employees must also maintain accurate time and payroll records. For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at https://www.dol.gov/whd/.