Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department obtains more than $305,000 in back wages and damages for underpaid low-wage workers of Whately, Mass., business
Chang & Sons Enterprises will also pay $10,267 in penalties for willful, repeat violations
BOSTON -- The U.S. Department of Labor has secured a consent judgment in federal court ordering Whately-based Chang & Sons Enterprises Inc. and Sidney Chang to pay a total of $305,500--$152,750 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages--to 14 workers, all of whom were not paid the minimum wage, and one of whom was not paid proper overtime, as required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
The defendants, who operate a business that grows, harvests and packages bean sprouts and other agricultural products and distributes them throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, will also pay $10,267 in civil money penalties for willful and repeat violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. The violations were uncovered during an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.
“This order is a clear message to this and other employers that disregarding the basic rights of vulnerable, low-wage workers will cost you more than if you’d paid your workers properly in the first place,” said George Rioux, director of the division’s Boston District Office. “Employers who underpay their workers are hurting not just their employees. They are also undercutting other employers who willingly choose to obey the law.”
“The department has been enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act for 75 years and will continue to use all tools at its disposal, including the assessment of liquidated damages and, when necessary, litigation, to ensure that workers are properly paid. We’re pleased that the defendants in this case now acknowledge, in this consent judgment, their obligations under the law,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s Regional Solicitor of Labor for New England.
The Wage and Hour Division’s investigation of Chang & Sons Enterprises Inc. found that the 14 employees, several of whom worked as many as 90 hours per week planting, harvesting, processing and packaging bean sprouts and soy beans, were not paid the required federal minimum wage. Instead, most were paid a flat salary averaging $350-$450 per week for all hours worked, which amounted to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In addition, one agricultural employee who performed some nonagricultural work each week did not receive overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a week, in violation of the FLSA.
The judgment, entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts following a complaint filed by the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor, enjoins the defendants from future violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements. It also bars them from running afoul of the law’s prohibition against shipping, delivering, or selling in interstate commerce “hot goods” produced in violation of these requirements. If the defendants should, in the future, violate any of these provisions of the FLSA, this judgment enables the department to seek a finding of contempt of court against them, including appropriate sanctions.
“We remind employers that, when warranted, the department will act to prevent the sale and shipment of goods produced in violation of federal wage law,” said Carlos Matos, assistant district director for the Wage and Hour Division’s Boston District Office. The Fair Labor Standard Act prohibits employers from employing workers below the federal minimum wage and prohibits employers from shipping in commerce any goods produced in violation of its minimum wage, overtime, or child labor provisions. The Wage and Hour Division is required under the FLSA to investigate and bring actions in federal court to enjoin any acts which are unlawful due to employment in violation of these provisions.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Nonagricultural and other nonexempt employees are entitled to time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.
The case was litigated by trial attorneys Scott Miller, Celeste Moran and James Glickman of the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston.
For more information on the FLSA, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Boston office at 617-624-6700. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
Harris v. Chang & Sons Enterprises Inc. and Sidney Chang
Civil Action Number: 3:12-CV-30103
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