In case you haven’t heard the USDOL is getting tougher and tougher. Ask any attorney. The ones that defend companies will tell you how tough it is getting and the ones that sue you will just get a big grin. In Fair Labor Standards Act cases there is generally no intent that has to be proven, just you are doing it right or you are doing it wrong. Until now that is.
Employers are thieves
Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis once stated in a speech that employers were thieves and were stealing up to a million dollars a week from their employees. She said she was going to stop it and her successor has continued her work. Attorney Doug Hass, of Franczek Radelet P.C., says a recent case out of Texas has shown us that the USDOL has no problem in bringing criminal charges in wage and hour lawsuits. According to Hass “Last fall, the U.S. Labor Department’s Dallas office issued a press release about criminal charges it had levied against a Texas-based rope manufacturer. Not only did the company face criminal charges, but ultimately the “owner, plant manager and office manager were also convicted on separate felony counts” as well.”
Section 216 (a)
Section 216 (a) of the FLSA says “Any person who willfully violates any of the provisions of section 215 of this title shall upon conviction thereof be subject to a fine of not more than $10,000, or to imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. No person shall be imprisoned under this subsection except for an offense committed after the conviction of such person for a prior offense under this subsection.” Hass reinforces this by saying “…the FLSA authorizes criminal sanctions against any person who is shown to have violated the FLSA intentionally, deliberately, and voluntarily, or with reckless indifference to or disregard for the law’s requirements.”
Where generally mistakes in wage and hour situations will get you fines and require you to pay back pay, this section allows individuals who know they are making errors to be put in jail in addition to everything else. By the way, in case you didn’t notice it, the company is not the only party to get in trouble. Individual supervisors and HUMAN RESOURCES people can also go to jail.
States want in on the act too
Fines and taxes are all revenue for the government. So if the Federal government is suing for errors in wage and hour laws it is very likely the state in which the company is located may also sue. Hey, revenue is revenue, and every agency wants its piece of the pie. You may also get some IRS action if you are not careful.
With the changes that will be coming with the FLSA revisions being worked on by the USDOL it will serve you well to be paying attention to the FLSA and make sure you are doing things as cleanly as possible. If you don’t and they can prove you knew you were doing it wrong you may have an opportunity to have a stay at the “gray bar hotel”.