Court orders Massachusetts contractors to pay $100K in damages to employee after US Department of Labor investigation finds illegal retaliation
BOSTON – An employee who worked for two Massachusetts construction contractors was within his rights when he complained to his supervisor about not receiving overtime pay and requested the wages he was due. The two companies responded with a campaign of retaliation, pressuring the worker to withdraw his overtime complaint. They convinced other individuals to follow and threaten the worker’s family, and told other employees they might lose their jobs because the worker requested overtime pay that was legally due.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the contractors’ actions violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The department’s Office of the Solicitor filed suit against the defendants and obtained a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in October of 2020.
Now, the court has issued judgments permanently enjoining JKA Construction Inc. of Watertown and Mendes Candido Framers Corp. of Hudson from retaliating against employees, and ordering them to pay the former employee a combined total of $100,000 in punitive damages.
The judgments expressly prohibit JKA and Mendes Candido from inhibiting any employees from exercising their rights under the FLSA in the following manners:
- Harassing or intimidating any employee or the employee’s family members.
- Making threats of harm to employees and their family members.
- Threatening to shut down the businesses.
- Terminating or threatening to terminate employees or telling them they will lose their jobs.
“This case makes clear that the U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate unlawful retaliation in any form, including where employers threaten workers or their families for asserting their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston. “As the Department of Labor did in this case, we will litigate aggressively to ensure that employers do not retaliate and that employees are protected when they assert their rights. Employers should be aware that retaliating against workers can be very costly because we can and will seek punitive damages in cases like this.”
“Workers must feel empowered to step forward to complain when employers deny them wages they have earned – the law prohibits retaliation or intimidation for speaking up,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carlos Matos in Boston. “To prevent these types of violations, we encourage employers and workers to contact us to learn about their rights and responsibilities. The division has multi-lingual investigators, who can communicate by phone with callers in more than 200 languages, and offers guidance online in a wide variety of languages.”
JKA has filed an appeal of the default judgment that the court entered against it.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
Secretary of Labor v. JKA Construction Inc., Mendes Candido Framers Corp. and Luiz Mauro Vilela, Jr.
Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-11944-RGS
Read the release in Spanish and Portuguese