This blog has previously noted the unwillingness of some employers to comply with the mandatory overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Among many provisions protecting the right of workers to receive fair compensation, the FLSA requires employers to pay their employers overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular wage for every hour in excess of 40 that is worked in a single week. Employers who violate this law, especially those who resort to fraud, are subject to severe monetary penalties, as recently demonstrated by the case of a horse trainer who got caught cheating.
The allegations of fraud
The case was started by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of labor against a well-known horse trainer who had trained at least two Kentucky Derby winners. The Wage and Hour Division charged the trainer with failing to pay mandatory overtime to his hot walkers and groomers. He was also charged with keeping inaccurate payroll records and instructing his employees to lie to auditors from the Wage and Hour Division. The defendant was also charged with intimidating workers in an attempt to prevent them from talking to government investigators. The defendant was also accused of abusing the provisions of the H2B visa program, a federal program intended to assist employers in finding workers in other countries and bringing them to the United States.
In all the government made the following additional charges against the defendant and his company:
- He ordered workers to “underreport their hours” to Wage and Hour auditors.
- He forced the H-2B workers to pay the cost of getting to and from their workplaces.
- H-2B workers were required to pay the costs of bringing them to the United States for their visas.
- He took cash from workers to cover the company’s legal and visa filing fees.
- He failed to pay his H-2B workers the required hourly wage, which is required to be at least equal whichever is the highest between the prevailing wage, the applicable federal minimum wage, the state’s minimum wage, or the local minimum wage. Weaver owed $175,099 to 59 workers, $3,126.76 per employee.
The Wage and Hour Division imposed a penalty of $259,519 for violation of the H2B program, $325,431 in back pay, and $99,567 in civil penalties.
The long view
This case demonstrates that employees can succeed in asserting their right to receive mandatory overtime. The case also demonstrates that employers run in flouting the Fair Labor Standards Act. Anyone who may have a claim for mandatory overtime may wish to consult an experienced labor lawyer for advice on their situation.