An aerospace defense contractor based in Broomfield, Colorado was ordered to pay almost $1 million in back wages to 904 employees in four states plus the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Department of Labor charges that Ball Aerospace and Technologies, Inc. failed to pay $976,327 in overtime to employees in Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, Georgia and Washington D.C.
According to sources, an investigation showed that once senior technicians reached the maximum hourly rate, they were arbitrarily and unlawfully changed to salaried-exempt status. The change in pay rate did not include a significant increase in responsibilities. Under federal law, in order to be exempt from overtime pay, employees must have decision-making powers, significant administrative duties or they must supervise three or more people. None of those conditions were met for the 111 technicians in question, so they are due $383, 235 in unpaid overtime.
In addition, all employees were routinely required to work through their lunch periods without any pay. Even if they were not able to take a lunch break, an hour was deducted from their time cards every work day. This violation resulted in payments of $593,092 to 793 employees.
Ball agreed to keep more accurate payroll records in the future, in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, and to pay all required wages to employees in the future.
In late July, the U.S. Department of Labor forced Desert Plastering, Inc., a Las Vegas Nevada firm, to pay nearly $1.2 million in back pay to 1060 employees. The feds found that Desert Plastering had not paid required overtime to lathers, finishers, plasterers and estimators who worked up to 58 hours per week.
In early July, the U.S. Department of Labor forced 107 subcontractors of KBR, Inc. of Virginia to pay some $1.5 million in back wages and benefits for up to 2,600 workers who participated in the Hurricane Katrina recovery project. The construction workers were involved in repairs to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport Mississippi or the Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The U.S. Department of Labor is still searching for some of the workers involved in that case. Anyone who believes that they are owed back wages for these projects can contact the nearest U.S. Department of Labor office. The average payment per worker in that case was $616.
Earlier this year, under a voluntary agreement to prevent a federal suit, Wal-Mart, Inc. agreed to pay $33 million in unpaid overtime wages to 86,680 employees throughout the nation. An internal audit revealed that the company had incorrectly classified some employees as “salary-exempt” when in fact they were entitled to overtime pay. In other cases, the company admitted that it had based overtime pay on the employee’s base hourly rate, not including incentives and bonuses in the employee’s average rate as required by law.
The Fair Labor Standard Act requires that most U.S. employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently $5.85 per hour. The FLSA also mandates that employees must be paid 1.5 times their usual hourly rate for each hour over 40 in a single work week.
Many employers mistakenly believe that any worker paid by salary is exempt from overtime. The FLSA does provide a number of exemptions to the overtime law for bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales jobs. In general, employees must meet job duty and salary tests, to be exempt from overtime.
The U. S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division collected more than $171 in back wages for some 246,000 employees in 2006. Thos wages were a result of 31,987 “compliance actions” in 2006.
A tree-trimming company broke the law when it failed to pay minimum wage to more than 2,500 employees. The company, ABC Professional Tree Services of Houston, Georgia, has been ordered to pay $1.8 million in back wages. Some of its workers participated in cleanup after Hurricane Katrina, and they are among the employees sharing the back pay settlement.
The firm violated the Georgia minimum wage and federal minimum wage laws, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which conducted the investigation. The probe began after a tip from an employee led to the discovering that the firm was violating the minimum wage law in 16 states. It was also violating the FLSA, or federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
The company must pay back wages to its Georgia employees, plus workers from Maryland, Virginia, Cincinnati, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The firm cleans up around power lines and after natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
Employees, according to FLSA rules, must be paid the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour for the first 40 hours, then time-and-a-half for overtime after that. Employers must also keep time and payroll records that are accurate.
The investigation grows out of a joint effort of the Labor Department and U.S. Attorneys from several states. They teamed up in 2006 to investigate violations of labor laws in the Gulf Coast area, and follow up those investigations with prosecutions. They are aimed at crimes of employers in hurricane regions – such as those including Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina.
“We are pleased,” said Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, “that we were able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve.” She said the department would continue its push “to ensure that employers are paying workers properly.”
The investigation resulting in the charges against ABC Professional Tree Services covered the period from August of 2004 to August of 2006.
A recent settlement reached between Wal-Mart and the US Department of Labor addresses the retail giant’s violations of federal and Georgia minimum wage laws.
What are the terms of this settlement?
Wal-Mart has agreed to pay almost 87,000 employees in Georgia and around the nation $33 million in back pay and interest.
Why are these employees receiving this money?
Certain salaried employees, such as programmer trainees, interns, and manager trainees received low wages and worked long hours. Federal law stipulates that even though employees are salaried, they still may qualify for overtime. According to the US Department of Labor, these Wal-Mart employees were actually “non-exempt salaried” and therefore qualified for overtime. In this case, manager trainees worked long hours for low pay even though they had no authority to make decisions nor did they oversee any employees.
What determines if a salaried employee qualifies for overtime?
New guidelines require that overtime be paid to employees who earn less than $23,660 a year ($455 a week). Some of the Wal-Mart employees earned much less than this. Moreover, employees can earn more than $23,660 per year and still qualify for overtime pay if they do not have the authority to make decisions that impact a store, division, or department. In most cases, this decision-making power includes the authority to hire and fire in excess of 3 employees.
Does this agreement impact other litigation against Wal-Mart?
No. Only those specific violations outlined in the judgment are resolved by this agreement. Other litigation is not impacted. In addition, workers can still file complaints with the US Labor Department.
Have other companies tried to avoid paying overtime wages?
Yes. Howard Johnson’s, a giant in the hospitality industry, used a similar tactic in the early 1980s. Employees in the restaurants were hired as “assistant managers” and then would bus tables, wait on customers, and wash dishes for 80 or even more hours each week. Howard Johnson’s was found guilty.
The Georgia overtime law is less tough on employers than the federal law. The state is the first to admit it, so it’s not like I’m taking sides or anything. Basically, when you read the overtime law for Georgia, that’s what it says: if you are following the federal guidelines for overtime pay, then you’re OK in the state of Georgia because (as I said before) the Georgia law is less stringent than the federal guidelines.
So then it follows that if we want to know what the Georgia law on overtime is, for the most part, we should study closely the federal law on overtime, the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA for short. These in essence apply to only employers who engage in interstate commerce, which nowadays with the Internet and fast transport equals a lot of employers.
But the safe bet, and the federal guideline for this, is that the FLSA covers any business with revenues of more than $500,000 per year.
The federal law says a lot about the minimum wage, too, but for the intents and purposes of this blog, we’ll stick with what it says about overtime regulations. In that case it says that hourly workers, also called non-exempt workers, are entitled to one and a half times their pay for all time spent working in a week over 40 hours.
The other half of that equation—exempt, or salaried employees—are not entitled to this pay standard. This includes people whose jobs include administrative, executive, or professional duties. This is, of course, a rough delineation between salaried workers and hourly workers, and the federal law isn’t so neat. Sometimes hourly workers can be exempt, and sometimes salaried workers can earn overtime.
If we had the room here, we could go into more detail on specific exemptions. As it is now, stay tuned! For now you can read the detailed information regarding overtime laws on the Georgia Complete Labor Law poster.