Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Deterring the wage-and-hour scofflaw

The New York Times reported late last week that a Manhattan Domino’s Pizza franchisee has settled a wage-and-hour class action lawsuit for $1.28 million.

Sixty-one delivery drivers alleged that managers told them that they would only be paid for 40 hours per week, no matter how many hours they worked. The drivers alleged that they often worked more than 40 hours in a week, sometimes as many as 65. The awards range from $61,300 to $400 per delivery person, depending on length of employment.

I suppose cases like this one shouldn’t stun me, but they still do. I’m appalled that employers, in 2014, remain ignorant about, or, worse, deliberately ignore, their obligations under the wage-and-hour laws. And, I’m not talking about the law’s minutia, like payment for travel time, or calculating an overtime rates on performance bonuses. I’m taking about the basics, such as you have to pay overtime to non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a week.

Some argue that stories like this one illustrate that we need tougher wage-and-hour laws to deter employers from stealing wages from their employees. I think the laws are tough enough. $1.28 million is a tough nut for any business to swallow. Instead, we need education. For the ignorant, we need to teach them about the FLSA and its complex web of requirements. For the scofflaws, we need to continue to publicize cases like the Domino’s Pizza settlement in the hope that they get the message. The laws we have are more than sufficient to protect employees’ wages, provided we do our share to secure compliance.