A company paid an employee’s final paycheck in about 91,500 oily pennies. Now, it owes 4,473,418 more.

U.S. pennies, 2008

Roman Oleinik, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It wasn’t quite instant karma. But two years after paying a worker’s final wages in a wheelbarrow full of oily pennies, an employer learned an expensive wage and hour lesson.

A little over two years ago, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) claimed that a former employee of a Georgia auto repair shop called the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and reported that his former employer had failed to pay him his last paycheck.

So, the WHD promptly contacted the employer about the status of the employee’s final paycheck. According to the DOL, the company indicated that it would not pay the employee his last paycheck. Instead, the company decided to pay the employee within hours of learning about the employee’s complaint to WHD.

In pennies.

Supposedly, the shop owner stated, “How can you make this guy realize what a disgusting example of a human being he is …. [Y]ou know what? I’ve got plenty of pennies; I’ll use them.”

So, on March 12, 2021, the company allegedly delivered about 91,500 oily pennies onto the former employee’s driveway. On top of the penny pile was a copy of the final paycheck with an expletive written on the outside.

The DOL claimed that the mountain of pennies blocked and stained the worker’s driveway, requiring nearly seven hours for him to remove. To boot, the DOL further alleged that the company published defamatory statements about the former employee on the company’s website.

Not paying a final paycheck on time violates the Fair Labor Standards Act. But, the employer’s brazen attitude seemingly motivated the WHD to conduct a broader wage-and-hour audit. That audit revealed that the employer violated the FLSA’s overtime provisions by paying other employees straight time for all hours worked. (Non-exempt employees working more than 40 hours per week must receive overtime at time-and-a-half.) In addition, the company also failed to keep adequate and accurate records of employees’ pay rates and work hours.

So, the DOL sued the company and its owner for these wage-and-hour violations, plus retaliation, because…duh!

(The FLSA’s definition of “employer” includes any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.)

Last week, a federal judge greenlit a consent order between the DOL and the employer, in which the company and its owner agreed to pay back wages of $19,967.09 plus another $19,967.09 in liquidated damages. This was on the heels of $4,800 in sanctions that the court had already awarded. That’s 4,473,418 pennies.

But there is no reason to gas up the dump truck. The consent order requires monthly installments paid in separate cashier’s or certified checks or money orders.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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