Human Resources News & Insights

Biz sued for OT says staffers were illegals: Does it matter under FLSA?

The Department of Labor sued a business on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for failing to pay workers overtime. The company fought back, saying its employees were illegal aliens not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Who won the lawsuit? 

It wasn’t even close. The DOL won big.

The company, Cindy’s Total Care, Inc., a nail salon, was forced to pay $117,960 in overtime wages, an equal amount in liquidated damages and $8,389 dollars in trial costs — for a grand total of $244,309.

The lawsuit stemmed from an investigation by the DOL’s New York City District Office. It found the nail salon required employees to work more than 40 hours per week without OT pay. Instead, employees were paid a set rate for each day worked, regardless of how many hours they worked.

It was not uncommon for employees to work six 10-hour days per week.

In addition, the salon failed to keep accurate records of employees’ pay and hours — a requirement under the FLSA.

Immigration status

The salon tried to fight the lawsuit by presenting evidence that many of its employees were illegal aliens and therefore not protected under the FLSA.

But U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said that the employees’ citizenship status was irrelevant.

“By its terms, the FLSA applies to ‘any individual’ employed by an employer … The Act contains no exception or exclusion for persons who are not U.S. citizens or who are in this country illegally,” the court said.

Competitive balance

This is not a new development under the FLSA.

Courts have long said the FLSA protects all employees from abuse, regardless of immigration status.

Reason: Companies that abide by the law would be at disadvantage if their competitors were able to hire illegal immigrants or other undocumented workers without having to pay them a fair wage.

Cite: Solis v. Cindy’s Total Care, Inc.

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