BOSS WATCH: 6/7 - 6/14
Updated On: Jul 08, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON | June 17, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, June 7 and Friday, June 14


—KENTUCKY THIEVES—

The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a court order requiring one of the nation’s most successful thoroughbred horse trainers to pay $243,260 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages after its investigation found the employer’s illegal pay practices denied 163 grooms and hotwalkers at Churchill Downs and at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington of overtime wages.

The recovery is the latest action brought by the department since 2021 against KDE Equine LLC, founded by Steve Asmussen and operating as Asmussen Racing Stables with about 200 horses in five states. This is the fifth time in recent years that investigations by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the company violated federal labor laws.

In its order, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky affirmed the division’s finding that the horse trainer failed to pay overtime wages to hotwalkers and grooms. Instead of paying overtime as the law requires, Asmussen paid the employees a salary for all the hours that they worked. Employees were occasionally paid extra money for doing additional work, but they were not paid overtime. 

“Several U.S. Department of Labor investigations have found significant violations related to the way KDE Equine pays its employees,” said Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta. “When we determine that an employer has violated the rights of its workers to be paid their full, legally earned wages, the Department of Labor will not hesitate to use litigation to hold employers like this, who knowingly disregarded their overtime obligations, accountable under the law.”

Specifically, the division determined the employer failed to pay non-exempt employees the additional half-time owed based on their regular rates of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek. Investigators also found KDE failed to keep accurate pay records and allegedly tried to conceal its Fair Labor Standards Act violations by knowingly modifying its records to make it appear the company paid employees by the hour.

“More than 160 grooms and hotwalkers whose work enables Asmussen Racing Stables to be successful will soon have the opportunity to recover the back wages they’re owed and liquidated damages they deserve from an employer that mistakenly thought they could win without playing by the rules,” Howard added.

In August 2023, the Arlington, Texas-based company entered into a settlement agreement to reimburse grooms and hotwalkers $129,776 and pay $75,223 in penalties to resolve violations of the federal H-2B worker program. In September 2021, the division recovered $563,800 in back wages and damages for 170 employees and assessed $46,200 in penalties after finding Asmussen failed to pay proper overtime compensation to employees for hours over 40 hours in a workweek, concealed hours worked by employees, directed employees to sign incomplete or false timesheets and did not calculate employees’ overtime correctly.

KDE Equine operates in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York and Texas and has trained thoroughbreds that have won some of the nation’s most famous races, including the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness.

“Our investigators found that KDE took actions more consistent with trying to hide its violations, rather than complying with federal regulations. These actions included keeping useless, inaccurate timesheets and blaming their failures on employee illiteracy and lack of English fluency,” explained Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “KDE Equine’s actions were a deliberate attempt to deflect the employer’s responsibility to pay their workers as the law requires.”

—ALABAMA DISCRIMINATOR—

From ALdotcom:

A Dothan hotel owner has been sued for discrimination by a federal agency that claims a nonbinary worker was fired because he showed up to a work meeting with pink nails and wearing braids and capris.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Dothan alleges Harmony Hospitality LLC, which owns the Home2Suites by Hilton hotel in Dothan, fired a night auditor at the hotel hours after the work meeting.

The auditor, only identified by the initials D.A., identifies as a nonbinary gay male and “styled himself in conformity with male gender stereotypes” while he worked at the hotel from Dec. 15, 2021 until around the day he was fired -- Feb. 9, 2022 --, according to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“During this Pride month, we want workers to know that they should be able to work in any job without fear of being harassed or fired because of who they are or who they love,” said EEOC General Counsel Karla Gilbride. “Federal civil rights law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County, makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the EEOC will vigorously enforce those protections.”

When D.A. showed up to the hotel for the work meeting on Feb. 9, 2022, which was held outside his normal working hours, he “styled himself in capri-cut joggers, pink-painted nails and box braids,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit said that was the first time D.A. appeared at work “in a style that significantly differed from male gender stereotypes.”

Hitesh Patel, one of the hotel’s owners, learned of D.A.’s style conflicting with gender male stereotypes at the meeting and instructed an assistant general manager to tell D.A. to cut his hair.

But the assistant general manager told Patel that doing so would constitute discrimination of D.A.’s gender identity, according to the lawsuit.

Patel also told the manager that D.A. would have to be “hidden” working nights because of his appearance, the lawsuit alleged.

Patel’s wife, Nisha Patel, identified in the lawsuit as a co-conspirator, was told of the schedule change when she learned of D.A.’s sexual orientation, gender identity and non-conforming appearance, the suit stated.

About seven hours after the work meeting, D.A. was fired.

“Defendant made the decision to terminate D.A. on account of his sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and failure to adhere to male gender stereotypes,” the EEOC said in the lawsuit.

—ARKANSAS DELINQUENCY—

From ALdotcom:

Tyson Foods has suspended its chief financial officer, a fourth-generation member of the company, after his arrest for driving while intoxicated Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting John Randal Tyson, 34, was arrested early Thursday by University of Arkansas police and was released about nine hours later. He was also charged with careless driving and improper turn charges, Fox24 reported.

The arrest comes about a year and a half after Tyson, the son of the company’s chairman, John H. Tyson, was charged with public intoxication and criminal trespassing after he was found sleeping in someone else’s home.

Tyson later apologized during a conference call and said he would seek counseling.

“I just wanted you to hear all of this directly from me and to know that I am committed to making sure that this never happens again,” he said in November 2022.

In that incident, a woman called police when she discovered Tyson, whom she said she did now know, asleep in her bed. She told authorities she believes the front door was left unlocked.

Police reportedly found Tyson there with his clothes in front of the bed. When police attempted to wake him, he sat up before laying back down.

Curt Calaway, a senior finance executive at the company, will take over as its interim CFO.

Tyson, the great-grandson of the company’s founder, has been with the company since 2019. According to Tyson Foods, he also leads the company’s enterprise strategy, corporate development and sustainability efforts, and serves as its chief sustainability officer.


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