Articles Posted in Minimum wage and overtime lawsuits

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usg-1-262481-m.jpgIn Governor Rauner’s State of the State Address in February 2015, he made direct remarks about his plans to reform the personal injury legal system in Illinois. Among his remarks, he proposed prohibiting trial lawyers from contributing to judge’s campaigns. Injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins explain how this proposal would critically jeopardize the rights of injured citizens.

Not once in his campaign for governor did Rauner mention his intention for radical change in the legal system. He is now proposing to prevent trial lawyers – those advocating for injured plaintiffs against corporate wrongdoers – from contributing donations to judge’s campaigns. His proposal targets trial lawyers exclusively, not defense lawyers, or counsel working on behalf of Big Business or its allies.

In Illinois, judges are chosen by popular vote, making campaigns as important as those for other public office. In recent years, these judicial elections have become as expensive as any other campaigns, forcing candidates to rely on outside supporters. Judicial elections are also dominated by Big Business including insurance companies and others who make no secret of electing judges who will decide in favor of corporations at the expense of everyday citizens.

Affecting Real People

To put this in realistic terms, let’s say someone catastrophically injured by a pharmaceutical drug chose to sue Pfizer. This patient now suffers a severe disabiliy and is largely unable to work because of it. Because of a defective drug, they require a lifetime of medical care, with little to no money to pay for it. This is already a David-and-Goliath scenario.

Rauner is now proposing to prevent the lawyers representing this injured plaintiff from making campaign contributions to judges. His proposal would not, however, prevent the lawyer defending Pfizer from making contributions. This is not only corrupt and immoral, but it is plainly unconstitutional. It is preventing a member of society from participating in democracy based on their profession.

In other parts of his speech, Rauner stated that workers’ compensation and liability costs needed to be reformed. Illinois has one of the most worker-friendly compensation systems in the country, which Big Business views as an immense threat to wealth. Millionaires and billionaires like Rauner disapprove of the plaintiff-friendly nature of our courts because it properly compensates injured workers, instead of keep the lower and middle classes in their place.

Insurance companies, Big Pharma, and nursing home corporate owners are all allies of Rauner. In fact, Rauner was recently involved in a scandal for his work with a decrepit nursing home chain in Florida. The nursing homes were responsible for numerous deaths and atrocious injuries and named Rauner’s firm, GTCR, as helping mastermind the nursing home’s operations.

The nursing home chain, Trans Healthcare, was hit with $1 billion in liability after several deaths and rampant resident abuse claims. GTCR, Rauner’s firm, co-founded Trans Healthcare in 1998. Rauner sat on the nursing home chain’s board for four years, during the time Trans was actively and knowingly understaffing its facilities to boost profits. More on this scandal can be found here.

Rauner and his firm depended entirely on defense attorneys to get them out of this $1 billion liability. Is it any surprise that now, with his new election to governor, he is supporting those lawyers, judges and special interest groups that stood beside him? In doing so, he is muting the voices of those who need their rights protected the most: the elderly, sick, injured, and poor.
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7632338498_d081455444_c.jpgWage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report on the recent lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB) over long-standing wage violations. The suit now includes former players from 17 different minor league teams, and specifically cites violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The former players are claiming that they and their peers are powerless against the reign of the MLB organization, and that they are required to put in obscene hours of work for abysmal pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted in 1938, and states that employees may not be paid less than the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Among its provisions, the FLSA also requires all employees to be paid overtime (time-and-a-half) for any work performed beyond 40 hours in a week. Legal and sports analysts confirm that baseball franchises are not exempt from the FLSA, so it is very unlikely that the MLB will be able to have the suit dismissed right away.

This case, Senne v. MLB, is interesting for many reasons: most relevantly because college football players at Northwestern University recently won the right to unionize. Athletes from different disciplines are starting to voice their grievances against the sports culture that is inextricable from American life. NFL players want recognition of and protection from repeated, dangerous head injuries; college players are fed up with a corrupt payment system; and baseball players wish to be paid for their immense labor.

The Northwestern case may not be the best parallel, but it is certainly interesting to consider. In that decision, a director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players on scholarship were employees of the university, and should have the right to unionize to leverage for larger scholarships, better healthcare coverage, and other benefits. This was based on the stipulations of the National Labor Relations Act, and Northwestern plans to appeal the ruling.

The exploitation of athletes is nothing new – there are countless movies and stories about the hardships they endure for the love of the game. “It’s supposed to be hard,” Tom Hanks’ character exclaims in A League of Their Own, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.”

At present, the base salary for a minor league baseball player is $1,100 per month – less than a full-time fast food worker. There is no minor league union, like there is now for Northwester players, so negotiating a pay raise, one would imagine, is quite audacious. Minor leaguers throughout the country live in the smallest, most crowded apartments, must shop at Walmart, and eat pizza and ramen for fuel. They sleep on air mattresses and are expected to put in long days as professional athletes.

Long days often turn into long nights; for an evening game, players typically show up at noon to practice, the game starts at seven, and is finished around ten or eleven at night. The schedule is the same throughout the season, six days per week. They are not paid overtime, are able to take very few days off, and if they complain, are fired without severance. Only a few will ever make the majors.

In any other conventional industry, this would be illegal, which is exactly the point minor leaguers are trying to make now. They are undoubtedly spurred by the massive increase in major league baseball players’ salaries: since 1976, big league salaries have risen by over 2,000%, while minor league salaries increased only 75%, failing even to keep up with inflation.
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gavel-6_l.jpgJanuary 1st ushers in a new set of rules for every type of person: a revised diet plan, changed relationship patterns, and, whether you realize it or not, many new and revised laws. Our team of injury attorneys would like to highlight a few of the most significant and far-reaching laws so residents may be better informed of their rights and regulations.

Collectively, the National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that the U.S. passed about 40,000 new laws throughout 2013. Let’s begin in our home-state, Illinois, where several significant laws are now enacted. It is now legal to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois, provided carriers pass extensive background checks and receive 16 hours of training; it is also now legal for drivers to travel at 65 to 70 miles per hour on rural highways. Medical marijuana is legal as well, making Illinois the 20th state to at least partially regulate its consumption.

As far as illegalization, Illinois drivers will now face penalties if caught using cell phones while driving, though they may continue to use headsets or speakerphones. Affecting Chicagoans specifically, anyone caught participating in a violent flash mob will now face up to six years in prison. Additionally, pet owners who purchase an animal without being informed of serious ailments can now return the pet or be reimbursed for veterinary expenses, known as the “puppy lemon law.”

Next door in Missouri, three important laws were just enacted, the first raising the minimum wage to $7.50. A second law replenishes the state’s Second Injury Fund, which is fed by workers’ compensation insurance plans. The fund is for employees who suffer more than one injury on the job, and will provide compensation for the state’s most vulnerable workers. The final Missouri law requires physicians to conduct congenital heart disease tests to all newborns.

Sweeping Changes in California

Californians are perhaps most affected by law changes this year, with amendments to the state’s driving, immigration, familial, and employment standards. The state now has the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $9 an hour, which it plans to increase to $10 by 2016. At-home caregivers working over nine hours per day or 45 hours per week must now be paid time and a half, and outdoor workers are required to have breaks when temperatures reach certain highs.

In additional employment news, employers can no longer terminate workers for being victimized by stalkers, domestic violence, or sexual assaults. They also may not threaten illegal immigrants by suggesting to report their illegal status to the federal government.
In further efforts to aid immigrants, it is now illegal for county jails to turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Those living in the state illegally may also now be admitted to practice law. Thumbing its nose at states like Texas and Utah, women in California have been granted additional abortion rights, as the state expands resident access to the procedure.

Drivers in California must now keep at least three of distance from cyclists on the road, and those driving low- or zero-emission vehicles may continue to use carpool lanes (even when solo) until at least 2019. As far as gun restrictions, the mentally ill who make violent threats may not own guns for at least five years, and kits converting standard magazines into high-capacity are now illegal. Those who want to purchase a rifle must now pass through a safety certification.
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img_3800-merrill-lynch-smf_l.jpgGeorge McReynolds has been working at Merrill Lynch as a financial adviser for over three decades, though he often feels isolated and unfairly treated by management. Recently, he filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company, along with about 1,400 other African American brokers. The suit was tumultuous, lasting about eight years and ultimately concluding in a record-breaking $160 million settlement. Employment lawyers at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look into this historic case.

McReynolds joined Merrill Lynch in 1983, at their Nashville office, where few other black brokers were employed. He noticed an array of racial bias issues from the start, but enjoyed the work so kept his opinions at bay. In 2001, however, after a particularly transparent racially-motivated incident, he could no longer keep his mouth shut.

That year, he was assigned to team up with two other Caucasian brokers, where they were to pool all their accounts and equally divide profits. McReynolds noted a number of problematic issues within the team , including that the majority of accounts came from McReynolds, and constant disputes on how to handle them. By 2003, the team split up, with most accounts divided between the two white brokers, resulting in a $40 million loss in client assets for McReynolds. He was also annexed to a new office directly outside the women’s restroom.

In 2004, a female Merrill employee successfully sued the company for gender discrimination and won about $2.2 million. This case was wrested from a slew of lawsuits filed in the 1990s, by women who claimed the financial industry systematically discriminated against female employees (the same is true of tech companies, an expose of which can be found here, via the New Yorker). At the time of the gender lawsuit, women made up about 33% of Merrill’s managers and executives. For African Americans that number was a staggeringly dismal 4%. At present, fewer than 2% of Merrill’s brokers are black.

McReynolds saw this injustice, lived with it for 30 years, and finally did something about it. His case, which he filed with the help of a Dallas-based Merrill employee, Maroc “Rocky” Howard, lingered in court for eight years and withstood numerous appeals. Ultimately, in the largest racial bias settlement ever in the U.S., McReynolds and 1,400 other similarly-situated brokers won $160 million.

In his complaint McReynolds affirmed that, though unintentional, there was a systemic racial bias in Merrill’s practices. This is an exceptionally broad claim; most racial bias lawsuits allege very specific incidents against individual employees. Merrill claimed the fault rested in society – white brokers simply have more accessible connections and greater network of wealthy potential customers to invest. Plaintiffs did not contest this, instead noting that though this may be true, the societal problems were further exacerbated by Merrill’s policies.

Specifically, plaintiffs cited the company’s practices in assigning teams and distribution of accounts, asserting that black brokers were both less likely to be asked to join teams and less likely to have quality accounts transferred to them. In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the brokers class-action status and affirmed that Merrill’s policies did have the potential to be discriminatory. A trial was set for early 2014, however, both parties eventually agreed to the settlement.
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2945700150_e6d2bfa19f.jpgLabor law violation cases have proliferated in the United States in the past few years, much to the dismay of large corporations and the benefit of low-wage workers who are too often exploited. These cases are also extremely complex, which was evidenced in the most recent case against Starbucks, where New York baristas argued shift supervisors should not be allowed to share in tip pools. Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins work extensively with these types of labor cases, and highlight this verdict to show the complexities of labor law violation standards.

After five years of litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that shift supervisors have no meaningful authority over baristas and perform many of the same job functions, making it legal for them to share tips. The case, Barenboim v. Starbucks Corp., applies only to Starbucks employees in New York, though it could have implications throughout the country.

The state’s highest court ruled, in a 5-2 decision, that limited supervisory duties did not prohibit the employees from partaking in pooled tips, citing Section 196-d of New York’s Labor Laws. Specifically, the case hinged on the definition of “meaningful authority,” and the exact nature of Starbucks shift supervisors’ job function.

Who has Authority?

Section 196-d of the state’s labor laws contend that no employer, its officer or agent can accept or demand, directly or indirectly, any part of gratuities received by an employee. In their original 2008 complaint, the baristas alleged that the shift supervisors were considered agents of Starbucks and therefore ineligible to receive tips.

The Appeals Court disagreed, noting that Starbucks shift supervisors were chiefly responsible for providing personal service to patrons (rather than overseeing and managing baristas) and thus had no meaningful authority that would exclude them from tips. The Court ruled that they would only be considered agents if they had broad managerial authority or similar power to control other Starbucks workers.

Ultimately, the Court made it clear that any employee whose principal or regular duty was to service patrons could participate in tip-sharing structures. Although their job functions also include assigning baristas to specific positions during shifts and providing performance feedback, the level of authority was not enough to exclude them.
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2843478060_5eb34cb6ff.jpgAs of November 5, 2013, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was expected to pass through the Senate and make its way to the House. The bill would prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity and sexual orientation, just as discrimination is already forbidden on the basis of skin color, religion, nationality, age, sex, disability, race and nationality. Wage and hour attorneys at Pintas & Mullins are hopeful that the House of Representatives will see the merit of this bill, which is long overdue.

It may be surprising to know that it is currently legal in the majority of states (29) to terminate or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Some version of this bill has been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994, though it has failed to pass every term. Only recently has the transgender provision been included.

What Rights will This Bill Award?

In its essence, ENDA will forbid employers from firing or refusing to hire employees based on being gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. It would simply expand the protections already in place regarding workplace discrimination so that they apply to all Americans, regardless of sexual preference of identity. If the law does not pass through the House (frankly it is not expected to, Speaker John Boehner stated the will oppose ENDA), the White House will consider issuing an executive order.

An executive order is issued by the president and has the full force of a law, not requiring the approval or input by the legislative (Congress) or judiciary (Supreme Court) branches. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a similar executive order in 1941, Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination by the federal government, unions and all companies engaged in war-related business. Namely, Order 8802 prohibited discrimination based on “race, creed, color, or national origin.” It also created the Fair Employment Practices Committee to investigate discrimination claims.

It is now time for our government to take one more step forward. Although the executive branch would prefer to have ENDA pass through Congress, it has made clear that an executive order is not out of the question. The blog President Obama wrote for the Huffington Post on this issue may be found here.

National polling has shown that the large majority of Americans support ENDA and its message. According to a public opinion poll by the Center for American Progress, in 2012, 73% of voters supported protecting homosexual, bisexual and transgender people from workplace discrimination. Even among those voters who were generally unfavorable toward homosexual people and practices, 50% said they supported forbidding workplace discrimination for this demographic. That is a huge number and particularly telling of the wide gap between the American people and House conservatives.

ENDA Opponents Opine

Many Republicans in the House are staunchly opposed to ENDA, which they believe would create a “nightmare” of compliance and litigation costs and be an assault on religious freedom. One Congressman, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), told NPR that he wishes to expand ENDA to include provisions on religious liberties. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), the lead sponsor of the bill, made a deal the Senate Republicans, promising support for a religious liberty amendment in exchange for their vote.
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5636394630_dec7716f72.jpgWage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that Bill Kurtis, Chicago veteran broadcaster and owner of Tallgrass Beef Company, was recently hit with a lawsuit by the former CEO of Tallgrass. The man sued both Kurtis and his beef company for alleged failure to pay back wages.

The plaintiff, James Whitney, was CEO and CFO of Tallgrass from December 2008 to 2011, when he was let go due to downsizing. Whitney claims he is owed a significant amount in back wages and reimbursable expenses for his time at the company.

A marketing firm, The Bloom Agency, is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, though it does not name Kurtis specifically in its complaint. Bloom created and implemented a marketing plan for Tallgrass and designed its website, for which it was never paid. Together, Whitney and Bloom claim they are owed over $75,000 for their work.

A similar lawsuit was filed against Tallgrass in 2010, which ended in a fine of $403,000 for Tallgrass. According to that complaint, the company failed to make payments to dozens of its livestock suppliers, which sourced grass-fed, grass-finished beef to upscale restaurants in Chicago such as Frontera Grill and Harry Caray’s. Kurtis ultimately reached an agreement with the suppliers and the USDA, resulting in the civil penalty.

The $400,000 penalty seemed to be unfair to many, especially once documents were released from the hearing. Official papers revealed that, as of 2009, Tallgrass actually owed $1.6 million to about four dozen livestock sellers. Ultimately, the company worked out a payment plan and agreed to be monitored by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), resulting in the significant penalty decrease.

This latest suit is a bit different in that it stems from violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act (IWPCA), rather than GIPSA laws. Specifically, Whitney was not paid-in-full for his final compensation after being let go. Under the IWPCA, employees are legally entitled to the monetary equivalent of all earned vacation and holiday pay, wages, earned bonuses, and any other compensation owed after leaving a company.

Employees who are not timely paid their final compensation are able to, as Whitney did, recover monetary damages through civil action. Workers throughout the country are becoming more and more aware of this fact and consequently filing suit against their employers who withheld pay.

For example, California’s Department of Industrial Relations recently announced that it was fining an Alameda restaurant nearly half a million dollars for wage theft violations. Employees of Toomie’s Thai Cuisine notified the state department, reporting that they routinely worked at least ten-and-a-half hours every day, up to seven days a week. They claimed Toomie’s did not pay them the required minimum wages for over time; instead, servers were paid $45 per day and kitchen staff between $75 and $120.

The citation includes nearly $375,000 in back wages to Toomie’s employees and over $108,000 in civil penalties. Unfortunately, restaurant owners are some of the worst offenders of wage and hour law violations, particularly in California. The California Labor Commissioner stated that her department is not focusing on one particular industry, but is instead simply renewing its commitment to proactive, aggressive, and meaningful investigations to get workers’ the wages they deserve.
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5532842468_21bef14739.jpgWage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that assistant managers at Best Buy recently settled with the company after being denied years of overtime pay. Under the terms of the settlement, plaintiffs will receive $902,000 collectively for their unpaid wages.

The Best Buy assistant managers were forced to clock out and wait for physical security to check them before they could leave work, which often took about 30 minutes. Managers were never compensated for this time, which added up significantly for many of the longer-term workers.

A similar failure-to-compensate case is currently pending against CVS, which also requires employees to wait for security checks after clocking out and before leaving for the day. Assistant manager plaintiffs in the CVS class-action also claimed that they were forced to work though meal and rest breaks without fair compensation in violation of both state and federal laws.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in California recently granted partial class-action status to a separate group of Best Buy employee plaintiffs, who are suing the company for failure to pay for overtime, travel, and meal periods. Plaintiffs are repair technicians – better known as the Geek Squad – and are alleging that they should have been paid for all hours worked beyond 40 in a week and for meal breaks in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The judge affirmed that their claims were not suited to full class-wide treatment, but that their allegations concerning failure to pay for commuting and overtime presented common issues for all Best Buy techs.

In other overtime wage violation news, a management firm was recently ordered to pay nearly 65 Dunkin Donuts employees over $197,000 in back wages. The firm, QSR Management, owns and operates 55 Dunkin Donuts franchises throughout Staten Island, N.Y. and New Jersey. After complaints were reported from these QSR-owned franchises, officials from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division launched an investigation into the franchises.

The two-year investigation, headed by the division’s Southern New Jersey unit, found that QSR fraudulently failed to pay its store managers overtime wages. Like Best Buy and CVS (also Apple and countless other companies throughout the nation), QSR falsely labeled all managers at the 55 franchises as exempt from overtime wages. As a result of the investigation, 56 Dunkin Donuts store managers will be paid a collective $197,550 in back wages.

At two of the locations federal investigators also found that Dunkin Donuts management was taking tips from customer services workers to make up for shortages in register counts. This is in direct violation of the FLSA, resulting in minimum wage citations and fines of $237 for eight management employees.

The Dunkin Donuts investigation was launched in April 2011 and concluded in March 2013. In a statement, Dunkin Donuts affirmed that each franchise owner is responsible for ensuring their own business practices are in compliance with federal, state and local laws. Decisions such as employee wages and benefits offered are up to each individual franchise owner.

Managers, assistant managers and other similar employees may only be considered exempt from overtime wages if they are paid on salary and/or if their job contains certain responsibilities, such as the ability to hire and fire. QSR claimed its managers were salaried though it actually paid them on an hourly basis, reducing pay if they ever worked less than 60 hours per week. Overtime exemption only applies if managers are guaranteed a weekly salary at least $455.
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mcdonalds-115057-m.jpgWage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have written extensively about the recent strikes taking place throughout the country by fast food employees. Workers from restaurants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell are striking in efforts to obtain higher wages and union protection.

The fast food strikes began in the spring of 2013 in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, when fast food employees could not even afford meals at their own restaurants. Thousands of employees participated in the first walk-outs and strikes in the city, which quickly spread to Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Seattle, and other metropolitan areas.

The minimum wage in the United States is set at $7.25 – barely enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. It was last raised in 2009, and President Obama is pushing to boost it in the ensuing years to $9. Despite working full-time, many fast food employees have to stay in homeless shelters or apply for federal assistance. Workers are now asking for living wages – $15 dollars an hour – to be able to buy basic goods, such as furniture for their families.

The most recent strike in Chicago involved 60 retailers and 400 low-wage employees, from companies such as Potbelly, Forever 21, and even Nordstrom Rack. At least one McDonald’s in the city amended its employment standards after the strike; now, workers at that location no longer have to pay for the food they mistakenly burn on the job.

One employee of Nordstrom Rack received a raise of $1.50 after striking, along with a promotion to coat specialist. Labor organizers at the Jason’s Deli on Dearborn and Lake claim they also received raises in the wake of last month’s strike. Another Forever 21 employee says she received an increase in hours. A Victoria’s Secret employee enjoyed a $2.26 raise after the strikes, though now he is hoping the company will revise its on-call policy so he can have a steadier schedule.

Organizers say the 2013 strikes are the largest ever by fast-food workers. Several hundred workers recently gathered at the Fifth Avenue McDonald’s in NYC, to voice their complaints about their wages and lack of union representation. One married employee is forced to share an apartment with her mother despite both her and her husband having full-time jobs.

On the other side of the picket line, executives from McDonald’s state that increasing wages would have a potentially negative impact on employment as well as for customers. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s living wage calculator, an unmarried adult would have to earn $10.48 and work full-time (40 hours a week) to constitute a living wage.

The average daily salary for a fast food CEO is about $25,000. The yearly salary of one of his workers (they are all male in the U.S.), is $11,000 – meaning that the CEO makes more than double the amount in one day than an employee makes in an entire year. Two thirds of fast food employees are adult women, trying to support a family, often alone.
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Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that 55 Dunkin Donuts franchises in New Jersey were recently ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in back wages to its managers and customer services workers.

2354047211_fa96dde78c.jpg The operator of the franchises, QSR Management LLC, also owns Dunkin Donuts locations in Staten Island, New York. The company was recently subject to investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which found multiple minimum wage and overtime violations. Specifically, investigators found that QSR was not paying its managers overtime wages by listing them as exempt, a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

All 55 managers will now be paid a collective $197,550 in back wages. Several customer service workers will also be paid a substantial sum because management at two New Jersey locations took tips from them to cover register shortages, resulting in minimum wage issues.

The director of the federal Wage and Hour South New Jersey Office stated that these 55 managers are all entitled to protection under the FLSA. They worked long hours for which they deserve to be compensated, and their employer’s failure to pay for their overtime violated their rights. QSR was fraudulently labeling the managers as hourly workers and reduced their pay if they ever worked less than 60 hours per week.

Under the FLSA, managers can be exempt from overtime wages only if they perform certain job duties and receive a guaranteed weekly salary of at least $455. QSR never guaranteed these workers a weekly salary and most received under $455 per week, rendering the managers entitled to overtime wages when working over 40 hours in a week. QSR agreed to pay the back wages and changed its employee handbook to reflect its compliance with valid FLSA standards, including no longer allowing management to withhold tips from employees.

The Wage and Hour Division has significantly stepped-up its FLSA compliance investigations throughout the country in recent years, often targeting low-wage industries. Fast food restaurants like Dunkin Donuts often employ vulnerable workers, such as immigrants or the impoverished, so they can more easily get away with pay violations.

When the Department of Labor investigates a business or operations company, it examines and transcribes records from the last three years, looking for complete, accurate, and unambiguous information from each pay period. The Department also confidentially questions employees, and investigates the conditions and practices of the business to determine if it is in violation of any FLSA provision. Those found to be in violation may be fined, imprisoned, or both, depending on the seriousness and amount of violations.

In related news out of Arizona, a tactical-gear manufacturing company based in Peoria was recently ordered to pay about $124,000 in back wages after a federal investigation. Like the QSR Dunkin Donuts, Tyr Tactical was found to be in violation of the FLSA’s overtime requirements. Investigators discovered that nearly 80 current and former Tyr employees were not properly compensated for the hours they worked beyond 40 in a week.
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