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WHD News Release: [03/07/2013]
Contact Name: Leni Fortson or Janna Hawkins
Phone Number: (215) 831-5102 or x5101
Release Number: 13-0344-NEW
US Labor Department obtains consent judgment to recover $3 million in back wages, damages for New Jersey gas station attendants
Company agrees to extensive monitoring program to ensure future FLSA compliance
MADISON, N.J. Daniyal Enterprises LLC and owner Waseem Chaudhary, and other companies owned and operated by Chaudhary, have agreed to pay $2 million in overtime back wages and an additional $1 million in liquidated damages to 417 workers employed at 72 of Chaudhary's New Jersey gas stations after investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The department also has assessed $91,000 in civil money penalties against this employer because of the repeat and willful nature of the violations. Additionally, the employer has agreed to take proactive measures, including a three-year monitoring program at each gas station, to ensure future FLSA compliance.
"This agreement returns hard-earned wages to workers in one of only two states that still mandates full-service gas pumps,"said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. "All gas station owners and operators in New Jersey should take note of this precedent by reviewing their payroll practices and legal obligations. Gas station attendants are few in number, earn low wages, work long hours and often lack English proficiency factors that contribute to their vulnerability as well as the importance of protecting their right to be paid properly."
Wage and Hour Division investigators found that employees often worked up to 84 hours per week, but did not receive earned overtime pay. Instead, many employees were paid partly on the payroll and partly off the books, sometimes in cash, to disguise the improper payment of overtime. The employer also failed to maintain accurate records of the hours employees worked.
A consent judgment outlining the terms of the agreement between the Labor Department and the employer has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The three-year monitoring program will be supervised by an independent monitor who will report to the department. It will include the installation of biometric time clocks in each establishment; a notice to workers regarding the terms of the compliance agreement; FLSA training for all employees in English and other languages; an anti-kickback protection clause to ensure that all workers are paid any back wages due; and a toll-free telephone number for workers to report violations to the monitor.
In 2012, the Wage and Hour Division conducted more than 100 investigations as part of a multiyear enforcement initiative focused on FLSA compliance among New Jersey gas stations. More than $2.3 million in back wages was recovered for more than 500 gas station workers.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt 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 for hours worked over 40 per week. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained. The FLSA also provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for the back wages as well as an equal amount in liquidated damages.
The consent judgment was filed by the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in New York. For more information on the FLSA and other federal laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, call the division's Northern New Jersey Office at 908-317-8611 or its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.