Employers need to be aware of the South Carolina overtime laws. A tree-trimming company in Houston found out the hard way that these laws must be followed. This company has to pay 2,501 employees at total of $1.8 million dollars in back pay for overtime worked. The professional tree-trimming company agreed to pay the money after an investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor.
U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao, stated, “We are pleased that we were able to help these workers get the back pay they deserve.” She added, “The department will continue our efforts to ensure that employers are paying workers properly.”
The company involved in the investigation is ABC Professional Tree Services. The investigation began following a tip made by an unhappy employee. The investigation looked into a two-year period of time starting in August, 2004 and ending in August, 2006. The Labor Department discovered the tree-trimming service had violated the law regarding minimum wage in several states. Moreover, the company had violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, also known as FLSA.
Some of the employees who will receive back pay were workers helping with the clean-up effort following Hurricane Katrina. ABC Professional Tree Services offers clean-up services along with tree trimming and cutting services. Cleaning up following a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, is the specialty of this company.
The back pay will be given to employees in the states of Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Maine, Louisiana, Virginia, Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida.
Working with U.S. Attorneys from several states, the U.S. Department of Labor has formed a task force. The purpose of this task force is to investigate possible violations of labor laws, specifically in the Gulf Coast area. The specific focus of this task force is the area impacted by hurricanes.
A Houston, Texas tree-trimming firm involved in the Hurricane Katrina cleanup failed to pay the minimum wage to its workers, and has been ordered to pay back-wages to more than 2,500 employee, in South Carolina
The violation of the federal and South Carolina overtime and minimum wage laws will cost the company more than $1.8 million. That’s the amount of back wages it has been ordered to pay, following the investigation by the Department of Labor.
The company, ABC Professional Tree Services, does cleanup and tree-cutting services around power lines and after natural disasters, including hurricanes. Some of the $1,801,507 in back wages will go to workers who were assigned to cleanup work following Hurricane Katrina. The company is not only paying back wages to its South Carolina employees, but workers from Maryland, Virginia, Cincinnati, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Labor Department officials got a tip from a worker about the failure to pay the minimum wage, and subsequently learned that ABC has been breaking the minimum wage law in 16 states. It was also violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FSLA says employees must be paid $5.15 an hour for the first 40 hours in a workweek, plus time-and-a-half for anything over 40 hours. The employer must also keep time and payroll records that are accurate.
In 2006 the Labor Department and U.S. Attorneys from several states developed a task force that was designed to probe and prosecute violators of labor laws in the Gulf Coast area. Its specific mandate was to focus on crimes of employers in hurricane regions. The hurricane cleanups included the aftermaths of Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said she was pleased that her department was able to “help these workers get the back pay they deserve. The department will continue our efforts to ensure that employers are paying workers properly.”
The investigation covered the period from August of 2004 to August of 2006.
Wal-Mart Inc recently agreed to pay $33 million to 87,000 employees throughout the country. The reason is that signed an agreement with the US Dept. of Labor related to unpaid back wages.
The infractions committed by Wal-Mart represent a violation of federal and South Carolina overtime laws. In the future, the giant of retail could be involved in more lawsuits because the agreement signed refers only to specific violations. It does not affect other litigations and complaints presented by workers.
What were the infringements at Wal-Mart? The most important violation was related to incorrect payments to some types of workers. They were considered as “salaried exempt” managers, when they actually had the right to receive overtime pay. Some of the examples were programmer trainees, manager trainees and paid interns. They were considered salaried and they worked for long hours without being paid overtime.
To avoid paying overtime, one unethical tactic in the past was to hire employees and put them in management positions. That tactic was applied by Howard Johnson’s in the 80’s. Waiters or dishwashers were hired as “assistant managers” and worked long hours for little money, until the workers won a class action suit. In general, members of management receive good salaries and other compensation. It is often expected that they will work 10 or 12 hours per day, or perhaps more, with no overtime pay. They are the typical case of “salaried exempt” employees.
They are some guidelines to differentiate a “non-exempt” employee from one who is “exempt”. If the employee receives $23,660 per year or less (that means $455 per week), and works more than 40 hours he or she must be paid overtime. If the employee is paid more than $23,660 per year, exempt status depends on his or her job description. A salaried manager, in general, has the authority to employ or fire 3 or more members of the staff, and has important power to make decisions over a store, a division or department.
One of the arguments in Wal-Mart case was that the manager trainees that worked long hours, has little decision-making power, and in most circumstances, they received less than $455 per week.
The state of South Carolina has no overtime law of its own. That means there are no laws on the books in South Carolina to cover how much employers should pay their employees for overtime, or to determine exactly when employers ought to pay overtime.
There are federal laws for this, though, and South Carolina employees and employers are mandated to follow those federal laws. These federal laws can be found in the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA for short.
The main gist of the laws in the Fair Labor Standards Act is that employers should set 40 hours as the standard work week length for their full-time employees. But if they have to have their employees work longer than those 40 hours in a seven-day period, then the employers must pay those employees time and a half, at least, for all time spent working over those 40 hours.
Not all employers and employees in South Carolina, however, are covered by this law. The federal law makes a differentiation, for instance, between salaried workers and those paid by the hour. In many cases, the salaried worker does not get entitled to overtime pay no matter how many hours he or she works in a week. The hourly worker, on the other hand, usually does get paid overtime past that 40 hour period.
Of course, as we know from looking at other state laws on overtime, nothing is so clear cut. And some salaried workers are entitled to overtime pay. One of the main ways that the federal law tells us to figure out who gets overtime and who doesn’t is the “bona fide” rule for salaried workers.
In other words, the federal law states, if an employee works in a position that’s a bona fide administrative, professional, or executive role, then that person is not entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.