Judge Orders Michigan Landscaping Company to Pay Misclassified Employees $118,426 in Back Wages and Damages
JENISON, MI – The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan has ordered New Image Landscaping LLC and owner Jeremy Cizauskas to pay 32 former employees a total of $118,425 in back wages and damages, after a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation. The court affirmed WHD’s findings that the Jenison, Michigan employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by denying landscape employees overtime after misclassifying them as independent contractors.
WHD investigators determined the employees did not meet the criteria for classification as independent contractors because Cizauskas exercised control over the work they accomplished, including scheduling and providing equipment, training, and uniforms. The employer controlled pay rates and the hiring of employees working in his landscaping, lawn mowing, and snow removal business.
The court agreed the workers were not independent contractors, but rather employees, and were therefore entitled to overtime and ordered the employer to pay $59,212 in overtime back wages and an additional, equal amount in liquidated damages. WHD investigators found many of Cizauskas’ employees routinely worked in excess of 50 hours per week at a set hourly rate, and that the employer often failed to pay them for time that they worked when they missed their meal breaks.
“Employers must ensure that employees receive all the wages they have legally earned,” said Wage and Hour District Director Mary O’Rourke in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Simply because a pay practice appears to be common in an industry does not necessarily mean that it complies with the law. Employers have a responsibility to understand federal wage laws that are applicable to their business. The Wage and Hour Division offers multiple compliance assistance tools to help employers understand their responsibilities and legal obligations to their employees.”
The court also issued an injunction requiring both New Image Landscaping and Cizauskas to comply with all provisions of the FLSA in the future.
WHD’s Grand Rapids, Michigan office investigated the case and the Department’s Office of the Solicitor in Chicago litigated the case.
The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, confidential calls or in-person visits to local WHD offices.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers who discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.
WHD’s mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation's workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act, and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment and assure work-related benefits and rights.
Secretary of Labor v. Image Landscaping LLC, et.al,
Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00429-SJB