US Labor Department investigation secures $174,400 in back pay, penalties

US Labor Department investigation secures $174,400 in back pay, penalties

WEST COVINA, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a settlement agreement with West Coast Customs of Corona, Calif., a well-known auto restyling center, and its owner Ryan Friedlinghaus, to pay $157,592 in back wages and liquidated damages to 45 employees following an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

The investigation found that the company willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions. In addition to paying back wages and damages, the settlement agreement requires the employer to pay $16,830 in civil money penalties.

“Employees often love their work but they’re still entitled to receive the minimum wage and overtime pay required by law,” said Daniel Pasquil, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s West Covina District Office. “It is an employer’s responsibility to be aware of and abide by labor laws that affect their businesses. Underpaying employees hurts not only workers and their families, but gives those who violate the law an unfair competitive advantage.”

West Coast Customs was featured on MTV’s program, “Pimp My Ride,” during the cable TV show’s first few seasons. The auto body shop specializes in performance enhancements, design and fabrication, paint and interior modification. West Coast Customs has more recently been featured in televised series produced by The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel and in the video game “L.A. Rush.”

Wage and Hour Division investigators in the agency’s West Covina district office found that the auto shop paid a weekly salary to employees regardless of the total number of hours worked. For some employees, this resulted in wages that averaged approximately $6 an hour, violating the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions. The investigators also established that, until 2011, West Coast Customs had misclassified employees as independent contractors. In addition, the company failed to maintain complete payroll records of employees’ daily and weekly hours.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. California’s minimum wage is $8.00 per hour. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are generally liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.

Source: Department of Labor