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.
I am glad to report that the Georgia Equal Pay for Equal Work Act asserts that discrimination in pay depending on the sex of a worker is unlawful. The act goes on to state that discrimination applies to unequal pay for comparable work on jobs which require the same or essentially the same knowledge, skill, effort and responsibility.
Jobs don’t have to be exactly the same to be equal. If two employees are actually doing the same work, it doesn’t matter if their titles or job descriptions are different. What counts is the duties they actually perform. The biggest problems are when two jobs are basically the same, but one includes a few extra duties. It is perfectly legal to award higher pay for the extra duties, but some courts don’t agree that the higher-paying jobs with extra duties should be consistently reserved for male workers.
There are some common-sense caveats. Employees may be paid at a different rate if it is in response to:
- A seniority system;
- A merit system;
- A system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or
- A differential based on any other factor other than sex
However, in order to comply with the provisions of this act, it is also unlawful to reduce the wage rate of any employee. So, wages can be raised to conform to the law, but they can’t be lowered.
In addition, I know that it is against the law for anyone (a client, governing body, or system of law) to cause an employer to discriminate against any employee. Finally, it is also against the law to fire or demote any employee who makes a complaint against the employer or any other person, testifies in court, or sues the employer.
Any employer who violates this law can be punished by a $100,000 fine. Employers must hang a poster of the Georgia Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in their place of business. This posting is available on the Georgia Complete Labor Law poster.