The US Department of Labor cites 15 notable new cases of HR oversight in resulting in fines or back pay. Contact Jumpstart:HR to learn more about our HR Audit and HR Advisor options for US Small Businesses.
San Francisco Bank Misclassified Workers, Pays $1 Million
First Republic Bank has paid $1,009,644 in overtime back wages for 392 employees in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. Investigators from the Wage and Hour Division found that the San Francisco-based bank wrongly classified the employees as exempt from overtime pay, failed to record actual hours worked for the misclassified employees, and failed to include bonus payments in nonexempt employees’ regular rates of pay when computing overtime compensation. The employees were entitled to overtime compensation at one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week.
Prevention Campaign Exposes Construction Hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has concluded its Construction Incident Prevention Initiative. During the four-month campaign, OSHA issued 243 citations and assessed a total of $658,862 in proposed fines to companies on construction sites throughout the agency’s Philadelphia Region, which encompasses Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The campaign included 545 no-notice inspections focused on falls, trenches and silica exposure with 59 percent of the inspections revealing violations. Some of the most common violations included failing to use fall protection when working on roofs, ensuring that scaffolds are constructed safely, and protecting trenches from collapse.
Lawsuit Filed Against Boston Animal Hide Business
Citing “knowing, deliberate and intentional” violations of federal wage and hour law, the department has filed a lawsuit against Boston Hides & Furs Ltd. and company officials seeking at least $500,000 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages for underpaid employees of the Chelsea, Mass., wholesale animal hide business. An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found that 14 employees worked approximately 10 hours per day, six days per week processing hides and furs for shipping to tanneries and were paid a daily cash wage of $50 to $70, which amounted to an hourly pay rate far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In addition, the defendants ordered employees to hide in a nearby house when Wage and Hour Division investigators first arrived at Boston Hides & Furs so they could not be interviewed. The defendants fired the workers after investigators subsequently interviewed the workers.
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Phosphates Company Cited for 40 Violations After Fatalities
Mississippi Phosphates Corp., has been cited for 40 safety and health violations following two worker fatalities at the company’s Pascagoula, Miss., facilities. In May, an operator attempting to start up a steam turbine in sulfuric acid plant No. 2 was struck by flying metal debris when the turbine housing ruptured, apparently because of over pressurization. A similar incident occurred in June when an operator restarting a tripped steam turbine in sulfuric acid plant No. 3 also was killed by flying metal debris after an over-pressurization incident. “Employers need to be proactive to ensure that all operating equipment is properly maintained and functional,” said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA’s Jackson Area Office. “Had this employer done so, these tragic events could have been prevented.”
Lawsuit Seeks Back Wages for Nashville Restaurant Workers
The department has filed a lawsuit against Los Arcos Seafood & Grill Inc., doing business as Los Arcos Mexican Grill & Seafood in Nashville, Tenn., and its owners, Jose Gutierrez Jr. and Martin Romo, seeking $227,366 in back wages plus an equal amount in liquidated damages. Investigators found that the employer failed to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as provide overtime compensation at time and one-half employees’ regular rate for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Additionally, the employer failed to maintain accurate records of hours worked and wages paid.
Penalties Proposed After Explosion at Georgia Chemical Plant
MFG Chemical Inc. in Dalton, Ga., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 20 safety violations following a plant explosion in May that resulted in the hospitalization of approximately 40 people working in the surrounding area. During the production of a compound used in water treatment, an increase in temperature caused the reactor to over pressurize, rupturing the dome cover and blowing a hole in the roof of the facility. Proposed penalties total $77,000.
North Carolina Contractor to Pay Back Wages
RJ Concrete Inc. of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., has agreed to pay 12 current and former employees $37,783 in back wages following an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that identified violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions. The investigation found that the employer paid the employees a “day rate,” compensating them at a fixed amount per day without accounting for the overtime premium due for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Additionally, the employer failed to keep accurate records of hours worked and wages paid. RJ Concrete Inc. is a contractor engaged in the construction of residential basements.
Commercial Bakery in Bronx Faulted on Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited commercial baker Zaro Bake Shop, Inc. for 26 serious violations of safety and health standards last April. The agency found 20 serious violations of safety standards and determined that the company failed to provide adequate guarding of moving machine parts, a lack of lockout/tagout procedures to prevent machines from starting up while workers serviced them, and slippery and uneven floors, among other things. A health inspection found six violations involving combustible dust hazards, not providing eye protection for employees working around corrosive materials, and a lack of eyewash stations for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals, among other violations.
Numerous Hazards Found at Connecticut Metal Stamping Plant
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Associated Spring-Barnes Group Inc. for 30 serious violations of workplace safety standards at its Bristol, Conn., metal stamping plant. The company faces $139,000 in proposed fines for electrical, mechanical, exit access, fall and combustible dust hazards identified during an inspection by OSHA’s Hartford Area Office. Inspectors found that combustible dust was allowed to accumulate, two of the plant’s dust collection systems lacked controls to prevent or suppress fires and explosions, and three emergency exit routes led through areas where the dust collection systems would vent if a fire occurred. Inspectors also found a variety of machine guarding, electrical and fall hazards; damaged protective gloves; an improperly stored container of combustible liquid; and lack of an emergency eyewash.
Lawsuit Filed Against The Christmas Light Co. in Dallas
The department has filed a lawsuit against The Christmas Light Co. Inc. in Dallas for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company failed to pay 233 installers about $240,881 in minimum wage and overtime back wages. The investigation, by the Wage and Hour Division’s Dallas District Office, determined that the company paid employees a flat rate for installing and removing Christmas lights and paid “straight time” for hours worked over 40 in a work week. The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, for hours worked beyond 40 in a work week.
Scrap Metal Recycler Exposed Montana Workers to Hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited A&S Metals for safety violations at the company’s Butte, Mont., recycling facility. Inspectors found 10 serious violations, including exposing workers to unguarded equipment such as a drill press, a metal compactor, alligator shears and a vertical portable grinder. Other violations included improper housekeeping, overhead crane and rigging hazards, incomplete handrails, and the unsecured storage of compressed gas cylinders. The Castroville, Calif.-based employer faces $59,000 in penalties.
Dover Chemical Co. Fined $545,000 Following Hazardous Release
Dover Chemical Co. has been cited for 47 health and safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an unexpected release of hazardous materials led to the temporary shutdown of the company’s Dover, Ohio, plant and an adjacent highway in May. Although no injuries were reported as a result of the incident, OSHA opened an investigation that focused on the agency’s standards for process safety management at facilities that use highly hazardous chemicals. Proposed fines total $545,000. Dover Chemical has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.
New Hampshire Wood Pellet Manufacturer Agrees to Correct Hazards
New England Wood Pellet LLC will take systemic and substantive steps to prevent fire and explosion hazards at it Jaffrey, N.H., plant as part of a settlement agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The company also will pay a fine of $100,000. The worksite, which experienced explosions and fires over the past year, was cited by OSHA for numerous hazards stemming from the absence of protective devices, which were exacerbated by a buildup of sawdust on surfaces throughout the plant. New England Wood Pellet initially contested its citations and fines but now has agreed to implement measures to prevent, detect and suppress any potential fires and explosions. The company also has agreed to hire an independent third-party expert to evaluate the effectiveness of the corrective measures.
4 Mines Issued Potential Pattern of Violations Letters
The Mine Safety and Health Administration placed four mining operations on notice about a potential pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. The four mines that received warning letters were Ten-Mile Coal Co. Inc.’s No. 4 Mine in Harrison County, W.Va.; Pike Floyd Mining Inc.’s No. 3 Mine in Pike County, Ky.; Argus Energy WV LLC’s Deep Mine No. 8 in Wayne County, W.Va.; and Noranda Alumina LLC’s Gramercy Facility in St. James County, La. The Mine Act provides for enhanced enforcement at mines that exhibit a pattern of violations. Mines that receive such notices have the opportunity to implement corrective action programs, and they must reduce their rates of significant and substantial violations or face serious enforcement action. Two years ago, MSHA implemented improved screening criteria to better identify problem mines. “The revised potential pattern of violations program, along with other enforcement actions such as impact inspections, is making mines safer,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph Main. “The number of chronic violators meeting improved screening criteria has substantially dropped since we began implementing these criteria in 2010.”
Safety Violations Found at Cardboard Box Manufacturer
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited cardboard box manufacturer Color Carton Corp. for 24 serious violations of safety and health standards as part of an effort to focus on industries with higher-than-average illness and injury rates. OSHA found violations including inadequate fall protection, a lack of machine guarding, as well as a lack of overhead crane inspections. Additionally, the company had no hearing conservation program to protect workers from excessive noise, eyewash stations for workers exposed to corrosive materials, or a hazard communication program for workers exposed to dangerous chemicals, among other violations.
Source: US Department of Labor