Employers Jailed For Failing To Pay Back Wages
The failure to pay back wages are normally a civil issue, not a criminal act. Well, it looks like that might be changing! The U. S. Department of Labor (the big boys!) are looking to punish employers who do not pay back wages. Ask the owners of Southern California Maid Services and Carpet Cleaning Inc. who found out recently that the feds are serious. The DOL have made it clear that they will take employers all the way to jail to enforce back wage orders.
The facts are simple enough. The DOL filed a lawsuit against the owners of the maid service-Sergio Maldonado and Lorenzo Rubio of Rolling Hills Estates. They lost, and were ordered by a California court in August 2007 to pay 3.5 million dollars in back wages and penalties to 385 of their current and former employees. The owners IGNORED the court order (don’t know who advised these guys!) and the DOL decided to file a contempt of order which was granted by the court. On October 30, 2009, the owners were arrested and held for 4 days in a Santa Ana jail. The owners were released following a hearing and again ordered to pay the entire 3.5 million by November 12, 2009. or face new contempt charges.
Here’s the real kicker. The new Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, has made it quite clear that she intends to make good on her promise to come down hard on employers who fail to pay properly. To enforce her directives, she has hired 250 new wage & hour inspectors to get judgments, and to enforce those judgments. California’s Department of Industrial Relations may well follow the DOL’s lead. There is no secret that class action wage & hour lawsuits are running out of control. Employers have got to understand that they have to pay correctly and failure to do so, even by accident, will cost them much more than the wages owed. Please check, and re-check, to assure that all breaks, overtime, and the proper classification of employees (exempt v. nonexempt) are within compliance. If employers take the time to conduct a self-audit they will not have to worry about the feds, California, or class action lawsuits. If you need help let us know.