Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the week ending on Friday, November 10
The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $11.4 million in back wages and liquidated damages for more than 1,000 employees of an East Coast restaurant chain after a series of investigations and litigation by the department.
The recovery is related to a consent judgment entered by a U.S. District Court that resolves litigation by the department’s Office of the Solicitor related to pay practices at more than 40 Plaza Azteca Mexican restaurant locations owned by Ruben Leon in seven states.
The employers agreed to the consent judgment after months of litigation and just before a jury trial was scheduled to begin. The lawsuit included Plaza Azteca locations in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Specifically, the department alleged that numerous Plaza Azteca Mexican restaurants paid back-of-the-house employees predetermined amounts. By doing so, the employers failed to pay some employees who worked up to 40 hours in a workweek the required minimum wage and did not pay some employees time-and-a-half for hours over 40 in a workweek. The employers also failed to maintain accurate records of employees’ work hours and wages, as required.
Due to the repeat and willful nature of the violations, the consent judgment also recovered $625,000 in civil money penalties from the employers.
In addition to the back wages and penalties, the consent judgment forbids the employers from violating the FLSA in the future and requires them to retain a qualified independent consultant to make certain the employers’ payroll and recordkeeping practices comply with the FLSA.
View the consent judgment and order.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the employer at its Arrington Assisted Living location – which provides housing and nursing care, housekeeping and meal preparation services for older adults – failed to carry hours over from the beginning of a workweek into the next pay period when compensating employees on a semi-monthly pay schedule. By doing so, the employer did not pay employees the time-and-a-half rate due when the workweek hours split by the pay period totaled more than 40, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Arrington Assisted Living also failed to compute a weighted average for employees paid two different pay rates in the same workweek. By doing so, the employer paid some employees lower overtime rates for hours worked over 40. In addition, the employer failed to keep accurate pay records as required.
In a 2022 investigation, the agency found the employer also violated the FLSA by failing to pay overtime premiums on shift differential bonuses and weight averages in overtime weeks at its Windsor Place Nursing Center location.
The Department recovered $59,417 for 64 workers and $7,616 in civil money penalties.
On background: In fiscal year 2022, the Wage and Hour Division concluded more than 1,100 investigations in healthcare industries. These investigations recovered nearly $15 million in back wages for more than 22,000 workers.
On Nov. 13, the department’s Wage and Hour Division will present a webinar on workers’ rights and protections for home care, residential care and nursing care industry employers, workers and other stakeholders as part of its ongoing education and enforcement initiative to improve employer compliance in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The event will occur as the nation marksHome Care and Hospice Month in November. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. Attendance is free but registration is required.
Get more information on how the Wage and Hour Division is focused on improving compliance by residential care, nursing facilities, home health services and other care-focused industry employers by protecting workers’ rights and protections, nationwide.
A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator observed three Aquino Construction employees working at a Middleburg worksite in an unprotected trench, about 8-feet-deep, 55-feet-long and 9-feet wide installing casing around an existing sewer line.
The trench lacked shoring or a trench box to prevent cave-ins. The investigator also saw a superintendent employed by KBT Contracting Corp. — the project’s general contractor — standing on the trench’s edge and the owner of Darmick LLC in an excavator, watching the employees working.
OSHA cited all three employers with one willful violation each for exposing employees to cave-in hazards by failing to shore the trench or use a protective system such as a trench box. The agency also cited each employer with a serious violation for placing spoil piles on the leading edge of the trench, exposing workers to struck-by hazards. OSHA proposed $65,182 in penalties for KBT Contracting Corp. and $33,261 in proposed penalties each to Aquino Construction and Darmick.
Background: In 2022, OSHA announced enhanced nationwide enforcement and additional oversight to support its national emphasis program on preventing injuries related to trenching and excavation collapses. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions, including a video on tips for safe excavations. Among the industry’s most lethal hazards, unsafe trenching led to 39 construction workers suffering fatal injuries in 2022.
Mueller Co. LLC, a nationwide manufacturer and seller of gas and water distribution products, and IH Services, Inc., which provides cleaning services in Mueller facilities, agreed to pay $150,000 and provide other relief to settle claims of sexual harassment and retaliation in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the lawsuit, IH Services assigned three female janitors to work at Mueller’s Albertville, Alabama, fire hydrant manufacturing plant. Several male Mueller employees solicited these female employees for sex, exposed their genitals and made sexual comments about the women’s bodies and sex lives. The EEOC further alleged that one Mueller employee attempted to rape one of the female janitors. After they complained to multiple IH Services and Mueller managers, IH Services retaliated against two of them by reducing their hours, making them work overnight shifts, and suspending or terminating them, the EEOC said.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court after its Birmingham District office completed an investigation.
Under a three-year consent decree, in addition to monetary relief for the victims, both companies will review and revise their sexual harassment and retaliation policies and post them in prominent locations frequented by employees or distribute them to all employees. Both companies will also provide annual training on their sexual harassment and retaliation policies and employee rights under Title VII to both managers and non-supervisory employees.
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