Auto store accused of paying ex-employee in fat pennies sued by federal government

A Georgia auto repair shop that went viral last year for allegedly giving a former employee his last paycheck in thousands of pennies covered in oil, requiring nearly seven hours of cleaning, is now being sued by the ministry work.

A OK Walker Autoworks and its owner Miles Walker in Peachtree City are accused of illegally retaliating against Andreas Flaten with the payment of a penny fat and posting defamatory comments about him online after Flaten contacted the department early last year for failing to receive his last paycheck.

The company, located southwest of Atlanta, is further accused in the December 30 lawsuit of failing to pay its employees overtime since at least April 5, 2019 and of failing to keep records. adequate and accurate rates of pay and hours of work for employees. , as required by law.

Flaten, in an email to HuffPost on Tuesday, described himself as “pleasantly surprised” by the Department of Labor’s filing.

“At first, I didn’t think I would ever see my last paycheck. Then the oily pennies were thrown in and honestly thought he would be able to do a stunt like this and get away with it, ”he said. “So I’m very happy to see the DOL escalate because no one deserves to be treated like that, especially when they were going to get better and trying to start in the right direction.”

Flaten contacted the Labor Department on January 26 last year to report that the company withheld his last paycheck after he quit in November. A representative from the ministry’s wages and hours division contacted the auto repair shop about the missing paycheck and was told Flaten would not receive it, according to the lawsuit.

Walker soon after changed his mind, however, and decided to pay Flaten what he was owed – but in pennies, the lawsuit claims.

“How can you get this guy to understand how disgusting he is a human being … [Y]you know what? I have plenty of money; I will use them, ”Walker reportedly said in the lawsuit.

Almost two months after Flaten contacted authorities, Walker dumped around 91,500 cents on Flaten Alley on March 12 with a copy of his payslip and “a curse written outside,” the lawsuit says. .

The department said it took nearly seven hours to clean the pennies, which were covered in oil and staining its driveway.

“Workers have the right to receive information about their rights in the workplace and to obtain the wages they have earned without fear of harassment or intimidation. “

– Steven Salazar, District Manager of the DOL Wages and Hours Division in Atlanta

The auto store defended its actions in a statement posted on its website and said that “no one employed” at the store had put oil on the pennies, then suggesting that the former employee had it. does himself “to make it more explosive”.

“Unfortunately, by law, we can’t disclose his flaws. Let’s just say he maybe stole? Maybe he killed a dog? Maybe he killed a cat? Maybe he killed a dog? Was he lazy? Maybe he was a butcher? Maybe he liked to indulge himself in customers’ cars? ”the post, which was recently deleted from the store’s website, said the former. employee.

The post went on to insist his actions were not a “big deal” since the former employee was ultimately paid in cash. He blamed “the lame media” for amplifying the story and suggested that people instead focus their attention on “taking a stand against the tyranny of an authoritarian government.”

The auto store did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Flaten told HuffPost he had not had contact with the auto store since the incident and would like to keep it that way. He said he heard directly from other former employees who alleged similar toxic abuse while working in the store, including allegations of withholding on the last paychecks. He encouraged other workers, no matter where they worked, to contact the Labor Department if they had any concerns about their wages and salaries.

“They really help and there are laws in place to protect you in cases like this,” he said.

Steven Salazar, district manager of the DOL’s Wages and Hours division in Atlanta, also urged workers to to reach if they have any concerns.

“By law, workers’ engagement with the US Department of Labor is a protected activity,” he said in a statement. “Workers have the right to receive information about their rights in the workplace and to obtain the wages they have earned without fear of harassment or intimidation. ”

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