USDOL orders CNMI staffing agency to pay back wages

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SAIPAN, CNMI – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Saint Trading Co. Inc. – a hotel staffing agency based in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – will pay $163,327 in back wages and liquidated damages to 73 employees for violating the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Additionally, WHD assessed $40,150 in penalties because of the repeat nature of the violations.

WHD investigators found Saint Trading Co. Inc. failed to combine hours that some employees worked at multiple locations during the workweek when determining whether overtime was due. This practice resulted in violations when workers’ totals exceeded 40 hours per week, yet they were paid only straight time rates for the hours they worked at each separate location.

The employer also violated the minimum wage requirements when it failed to reimburse employees for job-required medical exams, and food-handler trainings and certifications. The employer also failed to record or pay employees for the time they spent securing these items.

In 2013, WHD found the employer violated similar FLSA provisions by failing to pay employees for all the hours they worked, including time they spent working before and after their scheduled shifts, and during their unpaid meal breaks. Investigators at that time also found the employer failed to combine all the hours worked at multiple job sites for purposes of determining and paying overtime hours – a practice found to be ongoing in the current investigation. These violations resulted in Saint Trading paying $23,745 in back wages following the previous investigation.

“Employers that continue to operate in violation of federal labor laws can be subject to significant civil money penalties in addition to back wages and liquidates damages owed to employees,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Terence Trotter, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to ensuring a level playing field for law-abiding employers, and urges all employers to use the tools we offer to understand their responsibilities and avoid costly violations,” he added.

Employers that discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at www.dol.gov/whd including a search tool for workers who may be owed back wages collected by WHD.