Are You Paying Your Workers Enough?

Minimum wage is still an issue for many employers, as two agriculture employers recently learned.  And willful, repeated violations of the law can cause the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) to make a federal case of the issue. 

The DOL recently filed a lawsuit against agricultural employers for failing to pay their workers the minimum wage as required by the FLSA.  An investigation by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found that the employers willfully and repeatedly violated the law by paying many employees only $6.25 or $6.50 per hour.  The division estimates that a total of $191,402 is owed to 174 employees.

"We will not tolerate these actions and, as demonstrated by the filing of this lawsuit, the Labor Department will use all enforcement tools available to recover workers' wages and hold accountable employers who demonstrate a clear disregard for the law," said Jose R. Vazquez, the director of the division's district office which conducted the investigation.  As a result, the DOL asked the court to order the employers to pay the full amount of back wages due plus an equal amount in liquidated damages to the affected workers.

Under the FLSA, employers must pay covered, nonexempt employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.

Accordingly, employers need to ensure that they are complying with minimum wage requirements.  Part of that requirement is to ensure that commissions paid to their employees who are paid commission cover minimum wage per hour.  After all, under the FLSA, employees who are paid on commission must be paid at least the minimum wage, just as employees who are paid by the hour or piece.  So, if you want to avoid getting sued, don’t forget to track the hours of those commissioned employees and make sure that they are being paid at least minimum wage per hour, as well!

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