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WHD News Release: [11/22/2011]
Contact Name: Leni Fortson or Joanna Hawkins
Phone Number: (215) 327-8206 or x4457
Release Number: 11-1485-NEW
US Labor Department enforcement initiative recovers more than $1 million in back wages for 295 New Jersey gas station workers
Wage and Hour Division investigations found labor violations at BP and other gas stations
MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J. The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division is conducting a multi-year enforcement initiative focusing on the gas station industry in New Jersey, where it has found consistent and widespread noncompliance with the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. During fiscal year 2011, the division conducted 74 investigations of gas station facilities throughout the state, recovering $1,014,895 in back wages for 295 workers who were denied fair compensation for their work.
Sixty-nine of the establishments investigated were BP branded. Non-BP stations whose owners also had BP stations were found to have similar violations. Common violations found include paying workers below the federal minimum wage; paying a flat salary or "straight time" wages for all hours worked, without regard to overtime requirements; and paying cash wages "off the books," rather than maintaining accurate records of employees' wages, work hours and employment conditions, as required under the FLSA. After being notified of the violations, BP Products North America Inc. issued a letter to each of its marketers in New York and New Jersey, reminding them of their legal responsibilities under the FLSA and encouraging them to review their pay practices and ensure compliance under the law.
"Employers are legally required to pay their employees for all hours worked," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The Labor Department's initial findings in this enforcement initiative revealed a culture of noncompliance by gas stations in New Jersey that will not be tolerated. The Wage and Hour Division will continue to monitor this industry for continued compliance."
To assess compliance with all applicable labor standards among facility owners, operators, franchisees and other business entities associated with these establishments, the Wage and Hour Division is conducting thorough inspections of payroll records and employment practices, as well as employee interviews. Other strategies include unannounced facility investigations; morning, evening and weekend surveillance of employers that might be committing violations; and involving the Labor Department's attorneys early in developing cases to pursue possible litigation. In addition, the division is conducting outreach to employer and employee associations, community organizations, government agencies, unions and other stakeholders to engage their participation in promoting industrywide compliance with federal laws. The initiative is being led by the division's Northern New Jersey District Office; telephone 908-317-8611.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 per week. In general, "hours worked" includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal work activity to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. Additionally the law requires that accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained.
For more information on the FLSA and other federal laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, call the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/.