A Nashville car wash company has reached a settlement with three employees who claim they weren’t paid for several hours of work. The minimum-wage employees sued Shur-Brite Hi Speed Car Wash, alleging the company’s owners clocked them in and out throughout the day, depending on how busy their work shifts were. The agreed settlement for $130,000 will be distributed among 120 employees, who, like the plaintiffs, weren’t being paid for hours spent on the job.
According to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, compensable hours include all the time that an employee is required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace. According to the lawsuit, the car wash company’s owners would clock out employees when the amount of business dropped, then clock employees back in when business picked up. The employees, however, were required to stay at work while they were off the clock.
The Wage and Hour Division says that problems adhering to Fair Labor Standards typically arise when employers “fail to recognize and count certain hours worked as compensable hours.”
In a report by the Tennessean, Megan Macareg, director of Middle Tennessee branch of Jobs with Justice, a national organization that defends workers against unfair employment practices, said the car wash employees “didn’t have anywhere to sit or eat.”
“To a large extent, the company has cleaned up its act, but the stealing of wages is a massive problem,” Macareg said.
Wage theft activist and author Kim Bobo traveled to Nashville to attend a rally celebrating the settlement. Bobo is the executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago-based organization that appeals to the shared convictions of all religions in protecting the rights of waged workers.
Bobo, who believes that wage theft has become an epidemic in the U.S., blames corporate greed, the tough economy, and lack of government involvement. “Over the last decade, we have seen an abdication of the role of the government enforcing labor laws,” she said.