Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
Boston Hides & Furs Ltd. to pay $925,000 in back wages and damages to workers following US Labor Department investigation and lawsuit
Chelsea, Mass., business allegedly fired workers for cooperating with investigation
BOSTON -- The U.S. Department of Labor secured a consent judgment in federal court ordering Boston Hides & Furs Ltd., and its owner, Anthony Andreottola, to pay a total of $825,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to 14 underpaid employees of the Chelsea, Mass., wholesale animal hide business. The defendants were also ordered to pay a total of $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to 10 workers, who, the Labor Department asserts, were unlawfully fired for cooperating with the investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.
“For several years, these workers performed hard, dirty work for long hours without being paid overtime or even the legally required minimum wage. They did so for an employer who then fired most of them after we started our investigation,” said George Rioux, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Boston. “Such treatment harms the workers involved and undermines the efforts of law-abiding employers who pay their workers properly.”
The department filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in November 2012 alleging that the defendants violated the minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping and “hot goods” provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and unlawfully retaliated against several workers by firing them after they cooperated with the Wage and Hour Division’s investigation.
Investigators found that 14 Boston Hides & Furs employees worked approximately 10 hours per day, six days per week, processing hides and furs for shipping to tanneries. These workers were paid a daily cash wage of $50 to $70, which amounted to an hourly pay rate far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The employees also were not paid time and one-half the required state minimum wage of $8 per hour applicable for those hours worked above 40 in a week.
“The treatment of these workers was unconscionable,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor in Boston. “As we did in this case, we will pursue all appropriate legal means to ensure that workers receive the proper wages and treatment they deserve under the law. And in the future, if Boston Hides & Furs ever ships a hide that was handled by an employee who was paid improperly, they will be liable for contempt of court.”
Rioux and Felsen praised “the cooperation and assistance provided by both the Chelsea Collaborative and Greater Boston Legal Services in reaching this favorable resolution for the workers involved.”
While neither admitting nor denying the Department of Labor’s allegations, the defendants agreed to pay 14 workers a total of $412,500 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The defendants also agreed to compensate the 10 discharged employees with an additional $10,000 each: $5,000 in compensatory and $5,000 in punitive damages. Additionally, the defendants will pay the department $50,000 in civil money penalties.
The judgment prevents the defendants from withholding payment of the back wages and damages, requires them to pay proper minimum wage and overtime to employees, and maintain adequate and accurate records of wages and work hours. It also prohibits them from shipping, delivering or selling into the stream of interstate commerce any goods produced in violation of the FLSA. Violations of any of these provisions could result in the defendants being found in contempt of court.
In addition to mandating payment of minimum and overtime wages, the law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment and 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 FLSA prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The department's Fact Sheet No. 77A, "Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act," is available on the Wage and Hour Division's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs77a.htm.
The case was investigated by the Wage and Hour Division’s Boston District Office, and it was principally litigated by Senior Trial Attorney James Glickman and Trial Attorney Scott Miller of the New England Regional Office of the Solicitor.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Boston office at 617-624-6700. Additional information about this case can be found at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/whd/WHD20122131.htm, and the Wage and Hour Division’s webpage is http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
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