Violating the rules of employment set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act can be an expensive way to do business. In August of 2007, a federal judge in the U.S. Central District Court for California in Santa Ana ordered Southern California Maid Services Inc. to pay nearly $3.5 million in back wages and another $1 million in liquidated damages to 385 of its employees. The court ruled that by improperly classifying their workers as independent contractors, Sergio Maldonado and Lorenza Rubio, the company owners, avoided paying minimum wage and overtime, which the FLSA requires.
Then, last week, after finding the company and its owners to be in contempt for not paying the damages as ordered in the 2007 ruling, a federal judge smacked the cleaning company with another $277,791 in post-judgment interest, calculated at 4.44 percent from the original summary judgment’s date. Additionally, the judge ordered fines of $2,000 per day against the cleaning company and $200 each per day against Maldonado and Rubio for every day the back wages aren’t paid in full.
A district office of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in West Covina, Cal., first heard complaints about the way the cleaning company treated its employees when it took part in the Employment Education and Outreach (EMPLEO) – a coalition of private organizations and government agencies that helps Hispanic workers and employers with labor issues and concerns.
An investigation by the DOL turned up multiple minimum wage and overtime violations. Additionally, company managers did not keep accurate records of employee hours worked.
“The Department of Labor will not hesitate to take action to ensure workers receive the compensation they have worked hard for and earned,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in a statement last Thursday.
Solis, who was born in California to immigrant working class parents from Nicaragua and Mexico, was named as the Plaintiff in the case, filed in July 2006 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Speaking at the Forum of the Workers of the Americas in Trinidad, Solis suggested her agency would finally be able to ramp up its investigations of companies that treat their employees unfairly and illegally.
Solis served eight years in Congress during the Bush Administration before President Obama nominated her as Labor Secretary. She told the assembly in Trinidad that she had battled injustice for too long. “For eight years I have struggled under hardship in an administration that was not for, in my opinion, putting people – working class people – first. That did not put education first,” Solis said.