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Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 6:18pm

Hutco to pay overtime back wages following U.S. Labor Dept. investigation

Logo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Labor

Major staffing agency to pay nearly $2 million to workers

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 4:30pm

Hutco Inc., a major industrial services employment agency, has agreed to pay $1,916,850 in back wages to 2,267 employees assigned to client work sites throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company utilized improper pay and record-keeping practices that resulted in employees being denied overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Employers cannot avoid their legal responsibility to pay overtime by using evasive practices that seek to undermine labor laws and deny workers their rightful wages,” said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. “As a result of our investigation, not only is nearly $2 million in unpaid wages going into the pockets of the workers who earned it, but today’s agreement will also ensure the company’s future compliance with the FLSA.”

“Temporary employment arrangements can make the worker-employer relationship difficult for workers to understand,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, acting deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “As a result, temporary workers face the risk of not being treated as employees in terms of the wages and legal protections guaranteed under federal law. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to protecting them, and continues to reach out to stakeholders and state agencies to help ensure that employers who utilize contingent work arrangements do so in compliance with all applicable laws.”

An investigation of the company’s headquarters in Lafayette disclosed systemic overtime violations throughout six branch establishments. Hutco mischaracterized certain wages as “per diem” payments and impermissibly excluded these wages when calculating overtime premiums, thus denying employees earned overtime compensation. This improper pay practice also resulted in FLSA record-keeping violations involving the accuracy of employees’ wages and actual hours worked.

Under the settlement, in addition to paying back wages, Hutco has committed to future compliance with the law. The agreement includes specific measures the company will take to prevent future violations, including setting standards to accurately identify and compensate workers who qualify for bona fide per diem payments, paying accurate overtime and ensuring per diem payments are not automatically excluded from overtime calculations, informing employees about their pay and employment conditions, and obtaining written acknowledgment from employees that they understand the criteria for receipt of per diem payments.

Additionally, Hutco must maintain accurate records demonstrating which employees received bona fide per diem payments and that such payments are based on applicable Internal Revenue Service guidelines, or upon a reasonable approximation of the expenses incurred. The FLSA requires that covered 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, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.

An employee’s regular pay rate, upon which overtime must be computed, includes all wages for employment, except certain payments excluded by the FLSA, such as reimbursements for work-related expenses. Payments reasonably approximating travel or other expenses incurred on the employer’s behalf may be excluded from the employee’s regular rate of pay when computing overtime. However, where an employee receives such payments but actually incurs no such additional expenses, such payments do not constitute bona fide reimbursements and must be included in the employee’s regular rate of pay for purposes of computing an overtime premium.

Hutco Inc. is a labor services company that provides skilled and unskilled labor to clients throughout the United States in industries such as vessel construction, oil field fabrication, warehousing and distribution, manufacturing and other industries. The employees entitled to receive overtime back wages as a result of the department’s investigation worked as welders, fitters, tackers, electricians, blasters, painters, forklift operators and warehouse personnel.

Payment of back wages is ongoing. This case also has been referred to the Louisiana Workforce Commission for review.

Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the Labor Department is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/search.

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) or the division’s New Orleans District Office at 504-589-6171. Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
 

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