US Labor Department finds widespread labor violations in Southern California recycling industry, workers cheated out of pay
Enforcement initiative expands to other parts of state
LOS ANGELES In its first year, an ongoing education and enforcement initiative in the Southern California recycling industry by the U.S Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found violations of the overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act in more than 77 percent of facilities investigated. To date, employers are paying more than $275,000 in back wages and damages to more than 70 workers.
The division and the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery are working together on the enforcement effort under a memorandum of understanding that prioritizes joint investigations and sharing of facility information. The agencies are now looking to expand the recycling focus northward into the Fresno and Sacramento areas, and south into the San Diego area.
Wage and Hour Division investigators found many recycling facility workers were paid day rates, or fixed weekly salaries, without regard to the number of hours worked, resulting in overtime violations when these employees worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Other workers were paid straight time for all hours, including those with more than 40 hours per week.
Investigators also found that most facilities lacked toilets, running water and had unsanitary conditions.
"The Wage and Hour Division is directing its enforcement resources into industries like the recycling business that employ a large number of workers who are vulnerable to wage and other violations because they don't know their rights, or often are afraid to speak up when they do," said Francisco Ocampo, assistant district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Los Angeles. "It's ironic that businesses that help to keep our environment clean need to clean up their act and follow the law. That's why we are working vigorously in this industry to ensure employers comply with their obligations, and that all workers receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."
Simply paying employees a salary does not mean they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for individuals employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees. To qualify for an exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records. For more information about the FLSA and wage laws, or to file a complaint, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
- Read this news release in Spanish.