CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against a Chicago security company, American Public Defense Inc. and its owner and president Lewis Brown, to recover $473,212 in back wages and damages after its investigation found the employer misclassified guards as independent contractors and illegally deducted fines from workers’ pay for taking breaks, being late, not giving two-weeks’ notice before quitting and other actions the company viewed as infractions. Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined the illegal deductions caused the employer to pay some workers less than minimum wage and not pay overtime when required. The division also alleges the security company sometimes failed to issue any payroll checks and by misclassifying guards as independent contractors, denied them overtime and the payment of payroll deductions and other benefits. Filed on Sept. 29, 2023 by the department’s Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the complaint alleges American Public Defense Inc., and its owner and president violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. The complaint seeks to recover $22,558 in minimum wages due to 106 employees and $214,047 in overtime back wages owed to 169 employees, and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The division has identified FLSA violations by the company and Lewis Brown on two previous occasions. “By assessing employees with ‘fines’ for taking breaks, American Public Defense and its owner were violating federal wage laws blatantly,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Tom Gauza in Chicago. “After we found violations in two previous investigations, American Public Defense and its owner agreed to comply with the law in the future, so the company and management are aware of the resources available to them to ensure compliance with the law, and yet continue to violate it.” American Public Defense Inc. provides armed and unarmed security guards for commercial clients in Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan area. 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 and how to file an online complaint. For confidential compliance assistance, employees and employers can call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices – also available in Spanish – to ensure hours and pay are accurate.Su v. American Public Defense Inc., Lewis BrownCivil Action No. 23-cv-14317

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