The Labor Department said the proprietor of a Georgia auto-repair store had retaliated against the erstwhile worker for reporting that helium had not received his last paycheck.
Jan. 9, 2022, 6:30 a.m. ET
The proprietor of a Georgia auto-repair store who dumped 91,500 oil-covered pennies successful a erstwhile employee’s driveway was not conscionable creating a sticky messiness that took astir 7 hours to cleanable up, the U.S. Department of Labor said.
He was besides retaliating against the erstwhile worker for having complained to the section that helium had not received his last paycheck, the bureau said successful a suit that accuses the store proprietor of violating national labour law.
The suit represents the latest crook successful an employment quality that gained nationwide attraction past twelvemonth aft the erstwhile employee’s woman posted a video of the oily pennies on Instagram, attracting the sympathies of thousands of radical who said they, too, had contended with hard bosses.
The lawsuit, filed connected Dec. 30 successful U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, claims that the store owner, Miles Walker, and his shop, A OK Walker Autoworks successful Peachtree City, Ga., retaliated against the erstwhile worker aft helium called the section connected Jan. 26, 2021, to study that helium had not received his last paycheck, for $915, aft helium resigned.
Mr. Walker initially claimed that his store had prepared the paycheck but that “it ne'er made it to the mail,” the suit says.
When a Labor Department typical called Mr. Walker astir the paycheck connected Jan. 27, Mr. Walker said helium would not wage it, according to the lawsuit. But hours later, Mr. Walker decided to wage the erstwhile employee, Andreas Flaten, successful pennies.
“How tin you marque this feline recognize what a disgusting illustration of a quality being helium is,” Mr. Walker said, according to the lawsuit. “I’ve got plentifulness of pennies; I’ll usage them.”
On March 12, 2021, Mr. Walker near the mound of 91,500, oil-soaked pennies connected Mr. Flaten’s driveway. On apical of the pile, helium near a transcript of Mr. Flaten’s paycheck with an expletive written connected it, the suit said.
The adjacent day, Mr. Flaten’s woman posted the video connected Instagram. As the penny heap drew wide quality coverage, Mr. Walker posted a connection connected the shop’s website.
“What started retired arsenic a gotcha to a subpar ex-employee, definite got a batch of press,” the connection said, according to the lawsuit. “Let america conscionable accidental that possibly helium stole? Maybe helium killed a dog? Maybe helium killed a cat? Maybe helium was lazy? Maybe helium was a butcher?”
In a statement, the Labor Department called that connection “defamatory” and said that Mr. Walker had retaliated against Mr. Flaten successful usurpation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“By law, idiosyncratic engagement with the U.S. Department of Labor is protected activity,” Steven Salazar, territory manager of the department’s wage and hr part successful Atlanta, said successful a statement. “Workers are entitled to person accusation astir their rights successful the workplace and get the wages they earned without fearfulness of harassment oregon intimidation.”
The lawsuit, which besides accuses Mr. Walker and his store of failing to wage legally required overtime rates and failing to support capable and close records of employees’ wage rates and enactment hours, seeks $36,971 successful backmost wages and damages for astatine slightest 8 employees successful summation to Mr. Flaten.
Mr. Walker did not instantly respond connected Saturday to an email and a telephone connection near astatine the shop.
He told CBS46 successful March that helium could not retrieve if helium had dropped the pennies connected Mr. Flaten’s driveway. “It doesn’t substance — helium got paid, that’s each that matters,” Mr. Walker said.
Mr. Flaten and his girlfriend, Olivia Oxley, said past twelvemonth that they had spent hours hauling astir 500 pounds of pennies successful a wheelbarrow up the slope of his driveway into his garage, earlier the value of the coins caused the wheelbarrow’s tires to collapse.
On Saturday, Mr. Flaten said Coinstar had yet collected the pennies, washed them and counted them and had fixed him insubstantial currency successful instrumentality that was adjacent to the $915 helium was owed.
Mr. Flaten described the suit arsenic a “pleasant surprise,” saying helium had not been definite what to expect erstwhile helium archetypal called the Department of Labor past twelvemonth to study that helium had not received his last paycheck.
“I americium blessed to spot justness is being served,” helium said. “At first, I thought helium beauteous overmuch got distant with it.”