Folks, someday, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) may darken your door to audit your books and records. Perhaps, they’ll find a violation and require you to pay back wages and liquidated damages. If your next steps involve retaliating against employees who cooperate with investigators and demanding kickbacks of back wages, you will compound those problems.
I told you so.
Really, WHD told you so in a press release earlier this month.
According to the release, a home healthcare agency denied overtime payments for its workers over approximately two years and failed to maintain appropriate records of hours worked. In response, the employer agreed to pay $413,382 back wages and liquidated damages to at least 37 employees and comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The FLSA is the federal wage and hour law. It mandates overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay when covered non-exempt employees work more than 40 hours in a workweek.
According to the WHD, the employer submitted to WHD timely proof of payment of back wages and liquidated damages owed, which the employees purportedly signed. However, the WHD investigated further and found the employer had falsified employees’ signatures on official forms attesting to the receipt of payment. The investigation also revealed that the employer failed to pay their employees back wages and liquidated damages, and forged payroll records to show proofs of payment. Investigators also learned the employer threatened employees and engaged in a campaign to dissuade them from speaking with the WHD’s representatives. Employers cannot ask current or former employees whether they spoke to the WHD.
A lawsuit followed against both the company and its owner. In its filing, the Department asked the court to enforce the workers’ rights under the FLSA and to recover wages due to the employer’s failure to pay the wages owed to the workers properly. The Department also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit retaliation against current and former employees.
Earlier this month, the court provided the equitable relief that the Department sought.
Here’s a little employer checklist to avoid some of these FLSA problems:
✅ Maintain accurate time records for non-exempt employees
✅ Pay them OT (at least time and a half) when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek
❌ Don’t threaten employees who cooperate with WHD
❌ Don’t forge signatures on pay records
Above all, get help from an employment lawyer when (and before) WHD gets all up in your stuff.