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The Real Life Pain Of Wage And Hour Violations - Every Employer Has Something To Lose

A state agency cites a warehouse operator for wage violations affecting its 865 employees. Workers will receive $1.3 million in overtime, penalties, and meal period violations.

The California citation, which included two warehouses, provided for $1.1 million (overtime and back pay) and $200,000 (penalties).

A labor commission investigation found the warehouse operator "had established restrictive procedures that shorted workers their wages." The warehouse used only three time clocks, resulting in delays as employees arrived at work. Many workers were unable to punch in on time. Long lines were also a problem when employees punched in and out for lunch breaks. The state found the employer altered its time records "to reflect that employees had had a full meal break" when the employees did not have a full meal break.

The employer also penalized workers who complained about their unpaid wages, resulting in disciplinary actions and suspensions of employees who filed complaints.

The employer plans to appeal the ruling and denies any wrongdoing. Albert Sabaté, "Wage Violations at Warehouse Amount to $1.3 Million," abcnews.go.com (Jan. 31, 2013).

Commentary

According to Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics, the number of FLSA cases filed in federal court between 2010 and 2011 increased more than 15 percent. These case numbers include both single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and represent a trend that spans 10 years.

Misclassification of employees, inadequate time and pay records, and failure to pay workers for time worked are leading causes for wage and hour lawsuits. Compliance involves keeping good records, letting employees know the rules, including rules for break periods, and knowing both federal and state wage and hour laws.

Employers should make certain that their non-exempt employees receive proper credit for all time spent working on their behalf. Employers who hedge on employee time, or restrict or limit employees when they are on unpaid breaks, create risk.

Employers also should make sure that non-exempt employees receive breaks and other compensated time as required by federal and state laws. State laws may differ from federal law, and many state laws require mandatory paid breaks during the day.
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