CORRECTED: US Department of Labor alleges Colorado restaurant operator intimidated, fired workers who participated in federal investigation
DENVER – The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint in federal court against the operator of a Firestone franchise restaurant who allegedly fired two workers whom the employer believed complained to the department’s Wage and Hour Division about the employer’s pay practice and participated in the investigation that followed.
In its Jan. 11, 2023 filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in Denver, the department accused ZdN Inc. and its owner, Shawna Bingham – operator of a Blackjack Pizza & Salads franchise – of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by intimidating and retaliating against the employees.
The action follows an investigation after which the division determined the company and Bingham targeted the two workers for termination after learning of the probe. In its filing, the department claims Bingham told one of the workers that she was appalled that the employee complained to the division. During the investigators’ visit, the owner called the two off-duty employees and asked them to come to the restaurant where a federal investigator interviewed them. Later that day, Bingham terminated both employees.
“Federal law protects workers’ rights to report wage violations and participate in an investigation without fear of reprisal,” explained Regional Solicitor John Rainwater in Denver. “A U.S. Department of Labor investigation found the employers illegally terminated two workers who allegedly submitted a complaint and participated in a departmental investigation, both of which are protected activities.”
“Our action demonstrates that we will hold accountable an employer who retaliates against workers who question their pay practices and seek assistance by bringing their concerns to the attention of federal authorities,” Rainwater added. “This employer also must understand that they have no right to prevent an employee from participating in a federal investigation.”
The Wage and Hour Division protects workers against retaliation and has regulations that also prohibit harassment, intimidation or adverse actions against employees that assert their worker rights. 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 and how to file an online complaint. Workers and employers with questions can contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.
Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free.
Editor’s Note: This press release has been corrected to show the correct location of the franchise restaurant as Firestone.