BOSTON – The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts has ordered a Massachusetts contractor to pay $438,000 in back wages to 250 employees for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act after the court had previously ordered the contractor to pay punitive damages for unlawful retaliation under the FLSA. Woburn-based JKA Construction Inc. and owners Clesio Da Silva, Fabio Da Costa, Rafael De Paula and Josias De Paula must also pay $64,750 in civil money penalties to the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve willful violations of the FLSA’s overtime requirements.
A U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation found that, between August 2017 and November 2020, the defendants did not pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. Instead, they misclassified many of their employees as independent contractors and, in some cases, used a separate company to pay employees’ overtime hours at straight time rates. The defendants also failed to keep accurate and adequate records of compensation paid to their employees.
In addition to payment of the wages and penalties, the consent judgment requires the defendants to comply with the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions and cooperate with Wage and Hour Division investigations. The consent judgment also prohibits them from demanding that employees return or ‘kick back” any part of the wages and from accepting the return of any amounts due to employees.
“Employees have the right under the Fair Labor Standards Act to request the wages they have earned, contact the Wage and Hour Division and cooperate in its investigations. There is no need to work and live in fear of your employer,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carlos Matos in Boston. “These violations can be prevented if employees know their rights and employers know their responsibilities under the law. We encourage them to contact us for information and assistance.”
During its investigation, the division learned that JKA Construction Inc. had threatened and retaliated against an employee who requested to be paid the FLSA overtime premium. In April 2021, the department obtained a default judgment enjoining JKA Construction from retaliating against employees who exercise their FLSA rights or cooperate with division investigations and ordering the company to pay $70,000 in punitive damages to an employee against whom it retaliated. The department previously obtained a temporary restraining order in the matter in October 2020.
“Wage theft and retaliation are illegal and reprehensible. When U.S. Department of Labor investigations uncover such behavior, the Office of the Solicitor will litigate aggressively to ensure that employees receive all the wages they have earned and are not subjected to threats and retaliation by their employers,” said regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston.
Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.