Under terms of a consent judgment, Citywide Security Services Inc. has agreed to pay $14,760 in overtime back wages to 30 security guards of the Cleveland-based company operating as Citywide Protection Services. The company also will pay $5,000 in civil money penalties for willful and repeat violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the company failed to pay security guards overtime at time and one-half their regular rates of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Instead, the employer paid for overtime hours at straight-time rates in checks separate from employees’ regular payroll checks. The investigation found that the company illegally requested workers to return overtime back wages found due to them following a 2011 investigation.
“Failing to pay overtime when employees work long hours for your business is bad enough, but to intimidate workers to return their rightfully earned wages is inexcusable,” said George Victory, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Columbus. “Following the first investigation of its business, Citywide Protection Services ignored its legal responsibilities to employees and the agreement with the department to comply with the law. As this case shows, the department will not hesitate to bring legal action against employers that continue to short their employees and violate the law.”
The 2011 investigation found 12 employees were due overtime back wages after misclassification by the employer as independent contractors rather than employees. The current investigation found that six of those 12 employees did not accept their checks, at the suggestion of the company. For some employees who accepted their back wages and continued working, the company lowered their hourly wage and/or reduced their scheduled work hours. Following the first investigation, the company and its owner, George Lewandowski, failed to implement required record-keeping provisions of the FLSA, including maintaining time and payroll records.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, in addition to paying the back wages and penalties, Citywide is required to post notification informing employees about the investigation and about their rights to minimum wage, overtime and freedom from retaliation for exercising their rights under the FLSA.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
It is a violation of the FLSA for any person to discharge, or in any other manner discriminate against any employee, because the employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to the FLSA, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.
Any employee who is discharged or in any other manner discriminated against because, for instance, he filed a complaint or cooperated in an investigation, may file a retaliation complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or may file a private cause of action seeking appropriate remedies including, but not limited to, employment reinstatement, lost wages and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.