Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.
Date: July 2, 2013
Contact: Deanne Amaden, Jose A. Carnevali
Phone: 415-625-2630, 415-625-2631
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Release Number: 13-923-SAN (SF-89)
El Monte furniture designer and manufacturer will pay nearly $79,000 in back wages, damages and penalties, resolving US Labor Department lawsuit
Investigators found employers falsified records and committed willful labor violations
WEST COVINA, Calif. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment in federal court ordering furniture designer S.O.L.E. Design Inc., manufacturer Best Upholstery Inc. and company officers Linda Le and Minh Tran to pay 21 current and former employees $72,472 in back wages and liquidated damages, plus more than $6,000 in penalties. The judgment comes after an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the company willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions.
Investigators found that employees were paid straight time for all hours worked and did not receive an overtime premium for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, as required by the FLSA. Additionally, several employees working as upholsterers were paid piece-rate wages, which amounted to less than the federal minimum wage in some workweeks. Investigators also found that the employers paid some wages in cash and off-the-books, and falsified payroll records by excluding overtime hours worked by the employees, in violation of the FLSA’s record-keeping provisions.
“Our investigators found employees working up to 60 hours a week without overtime pay, and often for wages below the federal minimum wage. What’s worse is that the employers utilized off-the-record pay practices and maintained false and incomplete records of employees’ wages and work hours,” said Daniel Pasquil, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s West Covina District Office. “This judgment puts hard-earned wages back into the pockets of many vulnerable workers, including liquidated damages, to make them whole for the financial difficulties they suffered due to the wage violations.”
S.O.L.E. Design and Best Upholstery work collaboratively to design and manufacture home furniture that is sold to several major national retailers. The companies operate out of the same facility located in El Monte and constitute a single enterprise for purposes of FLSA coverage. The consent judgment, approved by the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, holds both companies and their officers jointly and severally liable for the payment of $36,236 in back wages, plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, to the affected employees, and an additional $6,468 in civil money penalties assessed by the department. Additionally, the judgment permanently enjoins the defendants from committing future violations of the FLSA.
The judgment also orders the defendants to implement specific practices to ensure FLSA compliance, including maintaining accurate time and payroll records reflecting all hours worked and all compensation paid to employees. Furthermore, defendants may not falsify timecards, require or cause employees to sign inaccurate timecards, or require employees to work off-the-clock.
The defendants must also display a notice of the department’s findings and the court’s order in both English and Spanish in areas highly visible to employees.
The FLSA requires that covered 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 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 generally liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, and the department was represented by its regional Office of the Solicitor in Los Angeles. For more information about the FLSA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its West Covina office at 626-966-0478. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.