Last week, I wrote about an employer that was fined for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations after using a fake priest to help withhold wages from employees. But don't think that the average honest employer is not at risk of FLSA penalties also. In fact, most FLSA violations—depriving employees of wages and/or overtime pay—are quite boring.
Here are some recent Department of Labor (DOL) Wage-Hour Division (WHD) press release headlines to prove the point:
- US Department of Labor recovers $373K in back wages, damages from California staffing agency that denied overtime pay to 23 caregivers.
- US Department of Labor finds Wisconsin restaurant operator shortchanged more than 100 employees more than $272K in wages.
- Labor Department seeking over 1,300 current, former workers at Arizona auto parts distributor, delivery company to repay over $5.6M in back wages, damages.
- US Department of Labor sues national customer support service provider in Florida for workers misclassified as independent contractors.
A complete listing of these press releases would show that DOL does target specific industries at certain times—currently, home care agencies, restaurants and auto parts distributors are popular targets. However, any employer could be violating the FLSA, often innocently, and could be a target of a DOL investigation or an employee class action lawsuit. For many years, such lawsuits were by far the most commonly filed actions in Federal court.
One of the best tools for avoiding FLSA penalties is to proactively conduct a wage-hour audit. Not only can such audits find and correct compliance issues before an opponent does, the mere fact that an employer conducted such an audit can be evidence of good faith that may convince a court to reduce damages in any lawsuit.
If you have questions about the FLSA, state wage-hour law issues or wage-hour audits, please get in touch with this writer or your usual Brown Rudnick contact. In the meantime, test your FLSA smarts with this question:
Workers are less efficient during these dog days of summer, so I don't have to pay them for finishing up a project after hours. True or False?