Jury rejects argument that company is agricultural business exempt from wage & hour law
A Lewes landscaping company and its owner have been ordered to pay $50,622 in damages to 10 temporary workers.
The decision follows a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation and jury verdict that determined the employer must also pay the workers the same amount in overtime back wages for Fair Labor Standards Act violations.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware ordered DeVilbiss Landscape Architects Inc. and owner and company president Paul DeVilbiss to pay the liquidated damages, which are intended to compensate workers for damages they incurred as the result of not having been paid timely for all the wages they legally earned.
The court issued an opinion late last month following a jury trial that was held last summer. During that trial, a jury found that employers violated the wage and hour law and that DeVilbiss was liable for $50,622.54 in back wages. In a recent opinion, the court found the employer had failed to meet their burden of proving they had a good faith belief that they complied with the law. As a result, the court ordered the employers to pay $50,622.64 in liquidated damages in addition to the overtime back pay the jury awarded.
The division’s investigation found that the employer failed to pay overtime for hours more than 40 in a workweek. The jury rejected the company’s argument that its employees were agricultural workers exempt from the law.
“Employers are legally obligated to comply with federal laws. This means they must ensure workers are paid all of their hard-earned wages, and the requirements of the worker visa program are followed,” said Wage and Hour District Director James Cain in Philadelphia. “We encourage all employers to contact the Wage and Hour Division with any questions to prevent violations like the ones in this case.”
For more information about laws enforced by the division, workers and employers can contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Also included is search tool for those who think they are owed back wages.