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.
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It’s the Ohio law, the Revised Statute 3121.89 – 3121.8911 that turns the federal law on new employee reporting into a specifically Ohio law. We’ve heard all about this federal law before. Remember? It’s called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, or PRWORA, passed in 1996.
The state of Ohio made it the law of its land in October 1998, and since then, all of you Ohio employees have been required to report all new hires within 20 days of their hire date.
New readers to my blog may be asking themselves: What is the state of Ohio going to do if I’m late? How am I supposed to keep track of all of my new employees for my own records, let alone for the state’s records? And what the heck is all this about anyways? (That questions if the easiest to answer: the state of Ohio and the federal government use the new hire lists to track down parents who don’t pay child support, as well as people who get unemployment insurance and shouldn’t, among other social benefits.)
As for the other questions, they are a little bit more complicated, but not much. If you don’t cooperate with the state of Ohio’s labor law for new hire reporting, the state can fine you $25 per person not reported. If they find that you are and the employee are in cahoots when it comes to not reporting, then they can fine you $500 per person.
As for keeping track of your employees, employers these days don’t have much excuses, with human resource forms on CD-ROMS, such as W-4 forms, background investigation release FMLA forms, direct deposit forms, interview evaluation forms, and even employment applications. Each one of thee forms can help you provide all of the information that Ohio and other states are asking for.
Besides all of these minimum wage increases passed by voters during this November’s midterm elections, there are some other laws passed by voters that will directly or indirectly affect employers. One such law is the smoking ban passed by Ohio voters in November.
The so-called Issue 5, or the Smoke Free Workplace Act, officially kicks in 30 days after the November election, so that gives employers and their smoking employees time to get used to the changes. It might even take a little bit longer than that for employers and the state officials to figure out to enforce these laws, as smokers are apt to try to circumvent them to get in their “smoke breaks” during their work day.
Voters in Ohio, though, clearly want smoke free work sites. They even had their choice on the ballot of the exact opposite, which would be a law that allows employees to still smoke at their work site. This law—the so called Issue 4—was supposedly funded by the tobacco companies themselves, acting on behalf of the thousands of people in Ohio who religiously buy and smoke their products every day.
But Ohio voters took note of the fourteen other states in the Union that have similar anti-smoking or smoke-free laws, which are set to protect employees from the hazardous effects of second hand smoke. The other states that have already passed similar laws include California, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, Montana, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Employers can wonder whether it is the voters’ or the state’s right to invade the privacy of their workers. But for the time being this seems to be the trend, and all scientific evidence—that is not put out by scientists paid by the cigarette companies—suggests that second hand smoke is dangerous. So in effect, the Ohio laws and others like it are saving you and other employers money down the road on health care and disability.