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California Employment Lawyers > Blog > Employment > Angry Employer Pays In Pennies, Then Gets In Deep Legal Trouble

Angry Employer Pays In Pennies, Then Gets In Deep Legal Trouble


Have you ever had a bill, or a fine, and been so angry that you had to pay it, that you thought about paying it all in pennies? Just back up a truck of pennies and dump it on someone’s lawn or in their office, just to be spiteful? Well, one employer, angry at having to pay an employee’s wages, did just that, and found itself in a lot of trouble with the government.

Dispute over a Mechanic’s Wages

The problem came when an auto mechanic was owed back wages from his employer. He said he was owed about $900. The employer disagreed, but probably knowing that the employer was going to have to pay it eventually, the employer opted to be spiteful, and pay the employee with pennies. That’s right–$900 worth of pennies was dumped on the employees lawn or driveway.

But the employer went a step further. The employer left the pennies, soaked and covered in oil. And with a note, filled with obscenities. The employer then proceeded to post rude, and potentially defamatory comments online about the employee.

Lawsuit and Government Action

The employee essentially hadn’t been paid—there’s not much one can do with what came to 500 pounds of pennies, all soaked in oil.

The employee could clean every penny and transport it to a bank—but that’s time the employee would have had to have taken that would have also had to have been compensated by the employer—you can’t make an employee take time or spend money just to receive money the employee has already legitimately and fairly earned. The employee here spent about seven hours shoveling the pennies off of his property.

So, the employee sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and the United States Government got involved as well, also pursuing legal action against the employer.

Retaliation is Illegal

This all may be rude and spiteful, but pennies are still money, so what did the employer actually do wrong here, legally?

Retaliation. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee, or discriminate against an employee, just for the employee asking for money the employee legitimately earned. The employer can’t retaliate against an employee because the employee asks for wages due to him or her, even after the employee has quit or resigned.

It also appears that the employee/mechanic may have been working overtime, without getting the extra pay that must be paid to employees who work more than 40 hours a week. The employee had been paid a flat weekly rate—something many employers do to try to pretend that an employee is salaried, and thus, doesn’t need to be paid a fair hourly rate.

The employee in the case also alleged that the employer had not been keeping proper time records, another possible violation of the FLSA.

Is your employer not paying you fully and fairly? Contact the San Jose employment lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today for questions about whether you may have a lawsuit against your current or former employer.




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