Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department seeks back wages and liquidated damages for workers at Baristas Coffee espresso stands in Washington state
Additional $42,000 assessed for willful violations of Fair Labor Standards Act
SEATTLE -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit to recover back wages and damages for employees of Baristas Coffee Co. after an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act at espresso stands in Auburn, Kent, SeaTac, Shoreline and Tacoma.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against two Nevada-based corporations doing business as Baristas Coffee Co.: Baristas Coffee Co. Inc., with Washington headquarters in Kent, and Pangea Networks Inc., headquartered in SeaTac. The complaint also names Barry Henthorn, CEO of Baristas Coffee Co. Inc. and chairman of Pangea Networks, and T. Scott Steciw, president of both companies, as defendants.
Investigators found that employees were sometimes paid with checks that were unsigned or had insufficient funds, which resulted in workers being paid less than the federal minimum wage for all hours worked. In addition, employees were not paid proper overtime wages when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. Investigators also found record-keeping violations of the FLSA.
“We believe that this employer owes back wages to its employees, and the department also will seek liquidated damages in an amount equal to the back wages,” said Donna Hart, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Seattle District Office. “Low-wage workers have a legal right under the FLSA to be paid the minimum wage and properly compensated for overtime. Employers should know that, when employees are deprived of their rightful wages, the Labor Department will not hesitate to use all enforcement tools at its disposal, including litigation when appropriate.”
The department is seeking back wages and liquidated damages for workers dating back to August 2009. It will separately assess $42,075 in civil money penalties because the violations were willful — conducted with knowledge of or disregard for whether the conduct is prohibited by the FLSA. The department also requested an injunction against future violations of the FLSA, including requiring retention of a third party auditor to send quarterly reports to the Wage and Hour Division for 12 months.
The FLSA requires that employers pay covered workers at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In addition, the FLSA requires that employees be paid time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.
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 the division’s Seattle office at 206-398-8039. Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
Hilda L. Solis, secretary of labor, U.S. Department of Labor v. Baristas Coffee Co. Inc., a corporation; Pangea Networks Inc., a corporation; Barry Henthorn and T. Scott Steciw, individually
Western District of Washington, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-1462
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