Paid in pennies: Employer gives 91,500 oil-covered pennies for worker's last pay

Company, owner must pay heft fine for retaliating against worker: court

Paid in pennies: Employer gives 91,500 oil-covered pennies for worker's last pay

An employer must pay a hefty fine after a U.S. District Court found them guilty of retaliating against a worker, along with other violations.

The company – 811 Autoworks LLC, operating as AOK Walker Luxury Autoworks – and its owner – Miles Walker – have been tasked to pay $39,934, representing back wages owed and an equal amount in liquidated damages, to nine workers.

An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labour’s Wage and Hour Division found that the employer retaliated against a former employee who contacted the division after the employer failed to pay his final wages. 

Following the incident, AOK Walker Luxury Autoworks paid the former employee’s final wages of $915 by delivering about 91,500 oil-covered pennies and a pay stub marked with an expletive to the worker’s home. 

Andreas Flaten filed the complaint with state labor regulators back in 2021.

‘Clear message to employers’ about unfair wage practices

The employer also published defamatory statements about the former employee on the company’s website, according to the DOL division.

“The court has sent a clear message to employers such as Miles Walker who subject employees to unfair wage practices and outright intimidation and retaliation. By law, worker engagement with the U.S. Department of Labor is a protected activity. Workers should not fear harassment or intimidation in the workplace,” said Tremelle Howard, DOL regional solicitor in Atlanta. 

“Employers who mistakenly believe they can willfully violate labor laws at the expense of employees and competitors must understand that we will do everything within our rights to bring them to justice.”

Judge Timothy C. Batten of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division ordered the employer to:

  • Remove all photographs of, and references to the former employee who was retaliated against from the company website, and never post photos or references about the employee again.
  • Post the consent judgment immediately in all conspicuous places in its facility where employee notices are usually posted.
  • Conspicuously display a division fact sheet on prohibiting retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in its facility.

Previously, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) granted a historic whistleblower award of US$279 million under its cash-for-tips program.

Other payroll violations

The DOL division also found that Walker violated the FLSA’s overtime provisions by paying the complainant and other employees straight-time rates for all hours worked, including for hours over 40 in a workweek when an overtime rate-of-pay was legally required.

The judge also ordered to permanently forbid the employer from violating federal minimum wage and overtime provisions.

“Workers are entitled to obtain the wages they earned without fear of harassment or intimidation,” said Juan Coria, Wage and Hour Regional administrator in Atlanta. “The Wage and Hour Division will use all tools available to ensure workers’ rights are protected and that employers do not retaliate against them when they assert those rights. This case should serve as notice to employers that retaliation will not be tolerated.”

Previously, an employer allegedly failed to comply with the requirement to pay wages within 72 hours from termination because it issued an electronic paycard with usage fees and access restrictions as final payment of wages to terminated or resigned employees.

Recent articles & video

Alphabet layoffs later this year to be 'much smaller in scale': reports

Elon Musk: Jobs to be optional in 'benign' AI future

What are the top people risks for employers?

Employers urge Biden to grant long-term immigrants work permits

Most Read Articles

Alphabet layoffs later this year to be 'much smaller in scale': reports

PTO requests up 9% year-over-year in April worldwide

Wage premiums for AI specialist jobs hitting 25% in 5 countries surveyed