News Release

Department of Labor obtains court order requiring Asmussen Racing Stables, leading thoroughbred trainer, to pay workers $486K in back wages, damages

KDE Equine LLC did not pay workers overtime at Churchill Downs, Keeneland

LOUISVILLE, KY – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a court order requiring one of the nation’s most successful thoroughbred horse trainers to pay $243,260 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages after its investigation found the employer’s illegal pay practices denied 163 grooms and hotwalkers at Churchill Downs and at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington of overtime wages.

The recovery is the latest action brought by the department since 2021 against KDE Equine LLC, founded by Steve Asmussen and operating as Asmussen Racing Stables with about 200 horses in five states. This is the fifth time in recent years that investigations by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the company violated federal labor laws.

In its order, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky affirmed the division’s finding that the horse trainer failed to pay overtime wages to hotwalkers and grooms. Instead of paying overtime as the law requires, Asmussen paid the employees a salary for all the hours that they worked. Employees were occasionally paid extra money for doing additional work, but they were not paid overtime. 

“Several U.S. Department of Labor investigations have found significant violations related to the way KDE Equine pays its employees,” said Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta. “When we determine that an employer has violated the rights of its workers to be paid their full, legally earned wages, the Department of Labor will not hesitate to use litigation to hold employers like this, who knowingly disregarded their overtime obligations, accountable under the law.”

Specifically, the division determined the employer failed to pay non-exempt employees the additional half-time owed based on their regular rates of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek. Investigators also found KDE failed to keep accurate pay records and allegedly tried to conceal its Fair Labor Standards Act violations by knowingly modifying its records to make it appear the company paid employees by the hour.

“More than 160 grooms and hotwalkers whose work enables Asmussen Racing Stables to be successful will soon have the opportunity to recover the back wages they’re owed and liquidated damages they deserve from an employer that mistakenly thought they could win without playing by the rules,” Howard added.

In August 2023, the Arlington, Texas-based company entered into a settlement agreement to reimburse grooms and hotwalkers $129,776 and pay $75,223 in penalties to resolve violations of the federal H-2B worker program. In September 2021, the division recovered $563,800 in back wages and damages for 170 employees and assessed $46,200 in penalties after finding Asmussen failed to pay proper overtime compensation to employees for hours over 40 hours in a workweek, concealed hours worked by employees, directed employees to sign incomplete or false timesheets and did not calculate employees’ overtime correctly.

KDE Equine operates in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York and Texas and has trained thoroughbreds that have won some of the nation’s most famous races, including the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness.

“Our investigators found that KDE took actions more consistent with trying to hide its violations, rather than complying with federal regulations. These actions included keeping useless, inaccurate timesheets and blaming their failures on employee illiteracy and lack of English fluency,” explained Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “KDE Equine’s actions were a deliberate attempt to deflect the employer’s responsibility to pay their workers as the law requires.” 

The Wage and Hour Division offers confidential compliance assistance to anyone – regardless of where they are from – with questions about how to comply with the law concerning its enforcement of federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act by calling the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). The division 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 Timesheet App, which is available in English and Spanish for Android and Apple devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

Wage and Hour Division
June 11, 2024
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Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
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