US Labor Department recovers $6K in back pay, levies $10K in punitive damages for Portland hotel worker fired after exercising protected rights
MANCHESTER, NH – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recovered $6,333 in back pay and levied $10,000 in punitive damages after finding a Portland, Maine, hotel operator unlawfully terminated a housekeeper after they contacted the division with a concern about the operator’s pay practices.
The division’s investigators found Giri Portland Inc. – operating as Hilton Garden Inn Portland Airport – terminated the housekeeper two days after they contacted the division regarding a tip-related allegation.
When investigators reviewed the housekeeper’s employment record, they found no report of prior disciplinary actions related to their employment. While finding no Fair Labor Standards Act violation after reviewing the tip-related allegation, the division found the termination violated the FLSA’s provisions for prohibited retaliatory behavior.
The division determined the employer owed $6,333 in back pay to compensate the employee for the time they spent looking for work after the unlawful firing. In addition, the division recovered $10,000 in punitive damages for the employee and required that the employer provide a neutral reference for their former employee when prospective employers sought them.
“Federal law protects workers from retaliation or intimidation because they assert their rights or contact the U.S. Department of Labor,” explained Wage and Hour District Director Steven McKinney in Manchester, New Hampshire. “Terminating or disciplining an employee for exercising their right to speak with the department, file a complaint under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or testify or agree to testify related to an investigation is illegal. The Wage and Hour Division will take firm action when these kinds of illegal behaviors occur.”
In fiscal year 2021, the division recovered $2,445,609 for more than 3,099 hotel and motel workers in 602 investigations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were more than 1,696,000 job openings for leisure and hospitality workers in July 2022, as about 1,172,000 workers in the field separated from their jobs.
“As employers struggle to find the people they need to fill the positions to operate their business, those who disrespect workers and violate their legal rights will likely discover that retaining and recruiting workers is much more difficult,” McKinney said.
For more information about retaliation and other employee rights enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions regardless of immigration status, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. 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.
Download the agency’s new Timesheet App, now available for android devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.