A Georgia auto repair shop that went viral last year for allegedly giving a former employee his last paycheck in thousands of oil-covered pennies, requiring nearly seven hours of cleanup, is now being sued by the Ministry of Labour.
A OK Walker Autoworks and its owner, Miles Walker, in Peachtree City, are accused of unlawfully retaliating against Andreas Flaten with the payment of a fat penny and posting defamatory comments about him online after Flaten contacted the department early last year about not receiving his final paycheck.
The company, located southwest of Atlanta, is further accused in the lawsuit filed on December 30 of not having paid overtime for its employees since at least April 5, 2019 and of not keeping 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 filing.
“At first, I didn’t think I would ever see my last paycheck. Then the oily pennies were thrown in and I honestly thought he’d be able to pull off a shot like that and get away with it,” he said. “So I’m very happy to see the DOL stepped up because no one deserves to be treated like this, especially when they were leaving to improve and trying to leave in a good way.”
Flaten contacted the Labor Department on Jan. 26 last year to report that the company had withheld his last paycheck after he left in November. A representative from the department’s wage and hour division contacted the auto repair shop about the missing paycheck and was told Flaten would not receive it, according to the lawsuit.
Soon after, however, Walker changed his mind and decided to pay Flaten what he was owed — but in pennies, according to the suit.
“How can you get this guy to understand what a disgusting example of a human being he is… [Y]you know what? I have plenty of money; I will use them,” Walker said as quoted in the lawsuit.
Nearly two months after Flaten contacted authorities, Walker dumped about 91,500 cents in Flaten’s driveway on March 12, along with a copy of his pay stub and “an expletive written on the outside,” indicates the trial.
The department said it took nearly seven hours to clean the coins, which were covered in oil and stained his driveway.
“Workers have the right to receive information about their rights in the workplace and to get the wages they have earned without fear of harassment or intimidation.”
– Steven Salazar, District Manager of DOL’s Atlanta Wage and Hour Division
The auto shop defended its actions in a statement posted on its website and said ‘no one employed’ by the shop had oiled the pennies, suggesting the former employee had done so himself “to make it more explosive”.
“Unfortunately, by law, we can’t disclose his shortcomings. Let’s just say maybe he stole? Maybe he killed a dog? Maybe he killed a cat? Maybe he was lazy? Maybe he was a butcher? Maybe he liked to indulge in customers’ cars? the post, which was recently removed from the shop’s website, said about of the former employee.
The post went on to insist that his actions weren’t a “big deal” since the former employee was eventually paid in cash. He accused “the lame media” of amplifying the story and suggested people instead focus their attention on taking a “stand against the tyranny of an authoritarian government”.
The auto shop did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Tuesday.
Flaten told HuffPost that he hasn’t had contact with the auto shop since the incident and would like that to continue. He said he heard directly from other former employees who alleged similar toxic abuse while working in the shop, including allegations of deductions from final paychecks. He encouraged other workers, no matter where they work, to contact the Labor Department if they have concerns about their wages and salaries.
“They really help and there are laws that are in place to protect you in cases like this,” he said.
Steven Salazar, district manager of the DOL’s wage and hour division in Atlanta, also encouraged workers to reach if they have any concerns.
“By law, hiring workers with the U.S. 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 get the wages they have earned without fear of harassment or intimidation.”