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Labor Dept. aggressively pursuing back pay

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The Department of Labor under Secretary Alex Acosta is aggressively trying to recover back pay for workers who claim they’re being stiffed by employers that violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It is also enforcing government contracting rules, pushing settlements on federal contractors found to be underpaying workers. In those cases, the price can be high—disbarment from bidding on new federal contracts for several years. That’s happening even though the White House recently rescinded an Obama-era requirement that banned federal contractors from doing any business with Uncle Sam if they had any recent labor law violations.

Example No. 1: Federal contractor compliance. The DOL recently secured a $1 million settlement from the federal contractor that runs the U.S. Senate cafeterias. Restaurant Associates and its subcontractor, Personnel Plus, must provide back pay, which includes fringe benefits, to 678 cafeteria workers.

The contractors also agreed not to bid on any new federal service contracts for two years and to use an independent monitor to ensure future compliance. They will also set up and maintain a confidential hotline so employees and managers can report wage-and-hour violations. Plus, they agreed that any new violations will result in automatic disbarment from federal contracts.

Example No. 2: Unpaid overtime. The DOL has filed a lawsuit in Houston against a medical staffing firm, its chief executive officer and its HR manager—over a dispute involving all of $56 in overtime that allegedly was not paid to an employee.

The employee told the DOL that when she went to the CEO and the HR manager to ask about the unpaid overtime, she was fired.

The claim is based on having worked 48 hours one week. The woman was paid straight time for those eight extra hours, when she should have received time-and-a-half in overtime pay.

She also alleges the same individuals provided negative references that prevented her from getting another job.

Bottom line: Don’t assume the Trump administration is so business friendly that the DOL will turn a blind eye to obvious FLSA violations, whether large or small.

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