News Release

Federal Court Orders Commercial Laundry to Pay Additional $527,986 In Back Wages and Damages After U.S. Department of Labor Appeal

LANSDOWNE, PA – Following an appeal by the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ordered Central Laundry Inc., owner George Rengepes and business operator James Rengepes to pay $527,986 in back wages and liquidated damages in addition to the $478,539 awarded by the court in 2018.

In 2015, the Department filed suit against the company in federal court alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The case proceeded to trial, and in April 2018, the court awarded $478,539 in damages to 21 employees, less than what the department had sought. The department appealed the case, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of back wages and liquidated damages for 11 long-tenured laundry workers identified in Central Laundry’s time records. On Feb. 25, 2020, following the 3rd Circuit’s decision on appeal, the district court awarded these 11 employees full damages. The court also increased its earlier awards for two other employees.

“For decades, the employer paid these workers extremely low wages while they worked extremely long hours, up to seven days per week,” said Wage and Hour’s District Director James Cain, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Our efforts in this case recovered the wages these workers had legally earned, allowing them to pay bills, buy groceries and provide for their families. We are committed to ensuring a level playing field for other companies in this industry.”

“This court decision shows that we will hold companies that fail to comply with the law accountable, and ensure that every employee receives their hard-earned wages,” said Philadelphia Regional Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III.

WHD’s investigation found, among other violations, that Central Laundry paid workers as little as $5.00 per hour, well below the $7.25 per hour minimum wage, and only $7.50 per hour for overtime hours in weeks where many workers worked between 50 and 90 hours.

WHD is committed to providing employers with the tools they need to assist them in fulfilling their obligation to understand and comply with the variety of laws the division enforces. Employers that discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program.

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 http://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.

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
August 10, 2020
Release Number
20-501-PHI
Contact: Leni Fortson
Contact: Joanna Hawkins
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