29 Jul

Recycling Innovation ordered to pay $77,000 in unpaid wages, damages and penalties following US Department of Labor investigation



Court enjoins employer, cites retaliation against employees

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ordering Alkanan Inc., doing business in six locations as Recycling Innovation and Valley Recycling, and its owner Karim Ameri, to pay $77,000 to 13 workers in back wages, damages and penalties for failing to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The court also entered an injunction restraining the employer from violating the FLSA in the future and retaliating against any employee who files a complaint with, or cooperates in an investigation by, the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

“Workplace intimidation, such as threatening to fire, deport or physically harm an employee who exercises his rights is completely unacceptable,” said Kimchi Bui, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Los Angeles. “The department will not tolerate such tactics and will use every legal tool available to protect workers and hold employers accountable.”

Investigators with the division’s Los Angeles District Office determined that Alkanan violated the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements at its locations in Northridge, Reseda, Winnetka and Van Nuys by only paying a daily cash rate between $55 and $65 for up to 10 hours of work per day, six or seven days per week, far below the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. The employer also retaliated against workers whom he believed provided information to the department’s investigators by threatening to fire and deport employees and use physical violence. Alkanan also failed to keep accurate and complete records of work hours.

The division first learned of this employer’s practices through the Employment Education and Outreach partnership, known asEMPLEO. Now in its 10th year, EMPLEO is an alliance of organizations and government agencies that assists Spanish-speaking workers and employers. EMPLEO’s toll-free helpline at 877-55-AYUDA (552-9832) is staffed by trained volunteers from the Diocese of San Bernardino, which refers callers to appropriate partners.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour worked beyond 40 per week. 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. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are generally liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.