Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Department of Labor sues Cincinnati landscaping company and owner for willful and repeated violations of Fair Labor Standards Act
Lawsuit seeks back wages and damages for 71 workers
CINCINNATI -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit in federal court seeking to recover back wages and damages for 71 employees of the Cincinnati-based landscaping company Gregory Forrest Lester Inc. and its owner, Gregory Lester, for willful and repeated violations of the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit also asks the court to permanently enjoin the company and Lester from violating the FLSA in the future.
The department filed the suit in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, after an investigation by its Wage and Hour Division.
“These defendants committed willful and repeated violations of the law, and they continue to do so by refusing to pay their employees minimum wage and overtime compensation for all hours of their hard work,” said George Victory, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Cincinnati District Office. “This action demonstrates that the Labor Department will use all available enforcement tools to hold Gregory Forrest Lester Inc. and owner Gregory Lester accountable for their violations.”
The investigation found that the company caused employees’ wages to fall below the federal minimum wage through several practices. First, deductions were taken out of pay for uniform shirts, tool damages and drug testing. Second, employees were docked one hour for lunch but only provided 15 to 45 minutes free and clear from work. The firm also deducted rest periods of short duration from the employees’ compensable time. Finally, in one instance, an employee was provided a cell phone to be contacted in the field by supervisors and then allegedly charged for its use.
Additionally, employees were paid a straight salary rather than compensated at a rate of one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week. Further overtime violations resulted from employees not being adequately compensated for sales work, which was performed after normal business hours, including on weekends.
Wage and Hour Division investigators determined that 71 employees are owed more than $88,000 in unpaid minimum wage and overtime compensation. The department’s suit asks the court to order the defendants to pay the entire sum owed, along with an equal amount in liquidated damages, and to prohibit them from violating the FLSA in the future.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The act also requires covered employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records indicating their employees’ identities, work schedules, total hours worked, regular and overtime pay rates, total wages paid and other conditions of employment. All such records are subject to inspection by the Wage and Hour Division and must be made available to investigators upon request.
The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing federal labor laws pertaining to the minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, child labor and special employment, family and medical leave, migrant workers, lie detector tests, worker protections in certain temporary worker programs, and the prevailing wages for government service and construction contracts. For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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