Many people think that when the Department of Labor or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) comes after a company for a violation it is just the company that gets sued. Unfortunately that is not the case as demonstrated by just such a recent situation.
Company president sued too
A recent press release from the US Department of Labor named a Texas company and its president as defendants in a lawsuit for violating the anti-retaliation clause of the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the press release two workers of No-Dig Tec LLC questioned the company’s pay practices and filed a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division. The company president, John Newell, was named in the lawsuit which alleged wrongful termination under the anti-retaliation provisions.
Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest said “This lawsuit sends a clear message to workers that the Wage and Hour Division is here to protect them and that we will use all available enforcement tools, including litigation, to stop employers from engaging in retaliatory conduct.”
The USDOL is seeking lost wages, an equal amount in liquidated damages, employment reinstatement and other appropriate remedies for the two workers to which they may be entitled under the law due to the unlawful terminations.
Lesson for employers
This case is brand new and has not been settled in court. The USDOL feels they have compelling evidence of wrong doing, but that has yet to be determined by the court. The lesson here is that it is not just the company that gets sued but also officers of the company can get sued from the President on down through the ranks to the Human Resources manager. To avoid the kind of damage and personal embarrassment this lawsuit will result in it is best to the laws that apply to your company and to make judicious decision in the application of those laws. Terminating an employee for filing a complaint with the government is considered retaliation and retaliation is illegal.
The best solution is to try to run a company where employees are happy and don’t complain, but if they do, and they complain to the government, firing them is not the best solution.
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