BOSS WATCH: 1/28 - 2/2
Updated On: Feb 20, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON February 5, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, January 28 and Friday, February 5


—FLORIDA THIEVES—

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $901,625 in back wages and liquidated damages for 75 workers of a Florida grocery store enterprise after finding their employer wrongly exempted them from eligibility for overtime pay.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division determined La Primavera Store Inc. – operating as La Primavera Supermarket in Fort Pierce, Bradenton and Sarasota – incorrectly categorized the affected employees as overtime exempt and did not pay them the required time-and-one-half rate for hours over 40 in a workweek, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Investigators found the employees did not meet certain criteria for exemption, including being paid at least $684 per week on salary, conducting managerial duties such as directing the work of two or more full-time employees regularly and having the authority to hire and fire employees.

In addition to wage violations, the division learned La Primavera Store employed two 15-year-old employees to work outside of legally allowed hours, in violation of federal child labor regulations. Specifically, the employer employed the young workers past 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1 and more than 18 hours during school weeks. The division assessed the employer with a $1,582 civil money penalty to address the child labor violations.

As a result of investigations like these across the state, the Wage and Hour Division is attempting to locate more than 14,000 Florida workers owed more than $6.5 million it has recovered from employers. People who believe they may be owed back wages collected by the division should use its Workers Owed Wages search tool to determine if they are owed back wages.

—GEORGIA KILLERS—

A Silver Creek plumbing contractor could have prevented a 34-year-old employee’s June 2023 fatal fall at a Rome work site by following required safety procedures, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found.

Investigators with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration learned that a three-person work crew from K&D Plumbing Inc. was replacing a sewer line at Armuchee High School when they encountered a blockage in a pipe. To clear the blockage near the end of a 60-foot-long trench, one worker entered a manhole. A short time later, the worker fell about 20 feet, where they succumbed to injuries as a result of the fall and subsequent exposure to a high atmospheric concentration of hydrogen sulfide gas.

The Rome Fire Department used a gas monitor to test the air inside the manhole and discovered the presence of hydrogen sulfide at 1,910 parts per million. The OSHA permissible exposure limit for hydrogen sulfide is 20 ppm. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an environmental concentration of 100 ppm is considered immediately dangerous to life or health.

OSHA cited the employer for willfully failing to develop and implement a permit-required confined space entry program, including testing and ventilating the space, before allowing employees to enter a manhole. The agency also cited K&D with six serious violations for not providing ladders or other safe means of egress from the 6-foot-deep trench and protections or controls for water accumulation inside the trench. 

In addition, the employer failed to have a competent person inspect the trench prior to workers entering and for not ensuring excavated soil and uninstalled piping were stored at least two feet from the trench edge, preventing them from rolling back inside the trench and striking workers. 

The agency proposed $184,387 in penalties

“K&D Plumbing’s failure to adhere to industry guidelines resulted in a preventable loss of life,” said OSHA Area Office Director Jeffery Stawowy in Atlanta-West. “Implementing safety controls and training employees to recognize and avoid hazards is every employer’s responsibility.”

—NORTH CAROLINA THIEVES—

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $168,796 in back wages for 51 workers at a Wilmington storm response contractor that misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to pay them for several months after work was completed.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division found Utility Resource Services LLC, which employs former utility workers and drivers to identify and report line and power issues in areas affected by hurricanes, violated minimum wage and overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act when it failed to pay many of the affected workers for more than seven months. 

Investigators also learned the employer had misclassified some employees as independent contractors and did not pay them required time-and-one-half rates for hours over 40 in a workweek and failed to maintain payroll records for its employees, as the law requires. 

“Federal law requires employers to comply with all federal employee protections, including proper classification and payment of all legally earned wages,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Our staff routinely provides assistance and training to help employers understand and follow the law and avoid the costly consequences of violations.” 

During the investigation, the employer reported they could not make payroll after another company holding the contract for those services failed to pay them. 

“The law does not allow employers to pass along their financial hardships to their employees. A customer’s failure to pay an employer for services does not affect their obligation to pay its employees’ lawfully earned wages on their regular pay dates,” added Blaylock. 

Currently, the Wage and Hour Division is holding more than $2.5 million in wages recovered from employers owed to more than 3,200 North Carolina workers. People who believe they may be owed back wages collected by the division should use its Workers Owed Wages search tool to determine if they are owed back wages.

—DISHONORABLE MENTIONS—

  • A Norfolk Southern employee was killed in a train crash in Decatur, AL. The full National Transportation Safety Board report could take up to two years to finish

  • U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found the ambulance service provider paid workers an incorrect overtime rate, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The agency found that the employer failed to pay the correct overtime rate after the Florida minimum wage rate increased from $10 per hour to $11 per hour on Sept. 30, 2022. Instead, Excelsior Ambulance Service continued paying the lesser wage rate after the change became effective, leading to paying overtime at rates lower than required by law. The division recovered $33,319 in back wages and liquidated damages for 28 workers.                 

  • Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the employer incorrectly determined that seven seasonal employees were exempt from overtime and paid them straight time instead of time and one half for hours worked over 40 in a work week. Additionally, the employer failed to properly compute compensatory time for 17 year-round employees. These actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. $27,278 recovered


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