PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon wildfire-fighting and roofing company is paying about $73,000 to 26 employees for violating overtime laws — and another $7,200 in penalties for hiring four underage workers.
According to a press release from the U.S. Dept. of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Salem, Ore.-based West Coast Reforestation Inc. violated the Fair Labor Standards Act on both counts.
WHD said investigators found that the employer violated overtime requirements when it failed to include production bonuses and daily payments made to some workers for driving in their regular rates of pay when computing overtime. Excluding these amounts from the calculation resulted in the employer paying overtime at rates lower than those required by law. Additional violations stemmed from the employer failing to record and pay for all of the hours some employees worked. That unpaid time resulted in overtime violations when it occurred in workweeks longer than 40 hours. West Coast Reforestation was also cited for recordkeeping violations for its failure to keep accurate time records.
Additionally, the employer was found to have violated child labor requirements when it employed four workers under 18 years old to perform roofing activities, which the law prohibits for minor employees.
West Coast Reforestation sent the following statement to the Salem Statesman Journal in response to the violations:
"As part of its efforts to reward its employees, West Coast Reforestation has offered generous year-end bonuses. It was regrettably unaware of the regulations that required such bonuses to be factored into overtime calculations, but has now corrected that error. West Coast Reforestation has and will continue to make every effort to offer generous compensation to its employees, consistent with applicable law, and to fully cooperate with the Department of Labor."
West Coast Reforestation is the fourth roofing contractor in recent months to be ordered to pay back wage. In April, Orion Builders Service Inc. of Thonotosassa, Fla. was ordered to pay back wages totaling about $265,000.
In March, Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based Monarch Co. was ordered to pay more than $156,000 in back wages.
And in January, Maldonado Roofing LLC of Tuscaloosa, Ala. was ordered to pay more than $57,000.
“Employees must receive all the wages they have legally earned, so that employers who comply with the law compete on a level economic playing field,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Thomas Silva, in Portland, Oregon. “These types of violations can be avoided. We encourage employers to reach out to us for information and assistance in understanding their responsibilities. Particularly when minor employees are involved, understanding the rules is critical.”
In February, Houston-based attorney and Roofing Contractor contributor Richard Alaniz wrote a column called “Are Your Salaried Employees at Your Roofing Company Truly Exempt?”
When it comes to which employees are exempt from overtime, Alaniz suggests evaluating all employees, especially as changes to overtime laws are reportedly being mulled.
“There are individuals in every workplace in the United States who are paid a salary and considered exempt from pay for overtime after 40 hours in a work week,” Alaniz wrote. “While the issue of whether employees are properly classified as exempt is always an issue that could potentially arise, exempt status is more likely to be called into question if and when the U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL) goes forward with a proposed increase in the salary amount required to qualify as exempt. It’s been reported that such a proposed rule could be issued early this year. Therefore, now might be a good time to discuss some of the issues likely to arise if the salary amount is changed.”