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Bad Pennies Turn Up In FLSA Wage Case

by | Jun 30, 2023 | Employment Law, Federal Law Update, Retaliation, Wage: Minimum Wage, Wage: Overtime, Wrongful Termination |

There are a lot of proverbs and sayings about pennies. Toss a penny into a well for a wish. Offer someone a penny for their thoughts. A penny saved is a penny earned. In February of 2022, our wage and hour attorneys reported on the story of Miles Walker, an angry boss who sought revenge against his former employee for reporting wage theft as a result of having his last paycheck withheld. (See Can My Job Withhold My Last Paycheck?). Well, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia just decided the case and issued an order.

As you may recall, in response to an inquiry from the Department of Labor (“DOL”), Walker greased up and dumped 91,500 pennies ($915 representing the amount of the last paycheck owed) on the driveway of the employee who complained to the DOL. On top of the greased-up pile of pennies, Walker tossed a pay stub in an envelope with expletive filled note in it.

Oh, Walker, the owner of an auto repair shop thought he was so clever and smart that he posted pictures of his prank on social media. But he wasn’t clever; he was pennywise and pound foolish. Walker grabbed the attention of the DOL, who further investigated and found that Walker’s business was not paying overtime properly at time and a half and failed to properly keep payroll records. Walker defended the case by arguing that the employee was subpar, lazy and by asserting that “maybe he stole? Maybe he killed a dog?”

Can an employer withhold pay if an employee’s work is subpar?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers generally cannot withhold pay for subpar work. The FLSA requires that employers pay their employees at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and provide overtime pay at time and a half for eligible employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

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Who is responsible for keeping time records? Can I prove an overtime pay violation if I don’t have time records?

Under the FLSA, employers are responsible for keeping accurate time records for their employees. The FLSA requires employers to maintain records of hours worked by their employees, including regular hours, overtime hours, and any other compensable time. Employers must keep records of the actual hours worked by each non-exempt employee, including start and end times for each workday. Employers need to record any unpaid meal breaks or rest periods lasting 20 minutes or longer that are provided to employees. Lastly, employers must maintain records of the total wages paid to employees, including any overtime compensation, deductions, and additions to wages.

When an employer fails to keep required records, courts may draw an adverse inference against the employer. This means that the court may assume that the employer’s failure to maintain proper records indicates a violation of the law or a conscious effort to evade compliance. This can weaken the employer’s credibility and strengthen the employee’s position.

If an employer’s failure to maintain accurate records results in wage violations, employees may be entitled to back pay for the unpaid wages they are owed. In cases of willful violations, liquidated damages, which are equal to the amount of back pay, may also be awarded. These damages are intended to compensate employees for the employer’s violation and deter future violations.

In cases where an employer’s record-keeping violation hampers the determination of unpaid wages, courts may use various methods to estimate damages in favor of the employee. This can include relying on the employee’s reasonable estimates, industry standards, or other available evidence to calculate the wages owed.

Best Overtime Pay Law Firm Blogs on Point:

Can my employer retaliate against me for reporting wage violations?

No. The FLSA includes anti-retaliation provisions to protect employees from adverse actions by employers in response to their exercise of rights under the FLSA. These provisions aim to ensure that employees can assert their rights without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

These protected activities include filing a complaint or lawsuit under the FLSA, cooperating with an investigation or legal proceeding related to the FLSA, or raising concerns about potential wage and hour violations. Retaliatory actions that violate the FLSA include wrongful termination, demotion, reduction in hours or pay, denial of benefits, unfavorable shift assignments, harassment, or any other form of adverse treatment. If an employee proves retaliation, the remedies available to employees may include reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees.

Certainly, dumping greased pennies on an employee’s driveway is retaliatory harassment.

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What happened to Walker?

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ordered Walker to pay nine workers back wages in the total amount of $19,967.09 plus an equal sum of liquidated damages, totaling $39,934.18.

The morale of the story is that while finding a penny on your driveway may bring you good luck, dumping 500 pounds of pennies on an ex-employee’s driveway is definitely bad luck.

Do I have a wage case against the company that I work for?

You may. The FLSA gives employees a whole bunch of different and varied wage rights. It protects against more than just overtime and minimum wage violations. Because the only way to determine if you may have a wage theft claim against your employer is to have a wage and hour lawyer review the facts of your situation, your best option is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?). Call our top employment lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Kentucky to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.

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