Labor officials: Colorado company violated overtime pay laws in 21 Pa. counties | TribLIVE.com
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Patrick Varine

A Colorado company will pay more than $18,000 in back wages and damages for overtime pay violations in 21 Pennsylvania counties, including Allegheny and Westmoreland, following a federal investigation.

U.S. Department of Labor officials announced Tuesday that Huwa Enterprises, an environmental restoration company based in Keenesburg, Colo., violated overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act between December 2015 and December 2017, when it paid employees bonuses labeled as “per diem,” regardless of the employees’ travel status or distance from home to work.

“For employees who did not have to travel to the job and had incurred no travel expenses, these payments did not constitute reimbursement and should have been included in the calculation when the employer determined overtime rates for these employees,” labor officials said in a release. “Excluding these bonus payments resulted in the payment of overtime rates lower than those the law requires.”

Huwa, doing business in Pennsylvania as Arnold’s Custom Seeding, performed work in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Huwa Enterprises Owner Corey Huwa said Arnold’s Custom Seeding, a union company, was simply adhering to the tenets of the National Pipeline Agreement negotiated by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Pipe Line Contractors Association.

“We’re under contract to pay people a certain way based on guidelines from the association,” Huwa said. “So we were required to pay per-diem to employees.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all the hours they work, plus time and one half their regular rates, including commissions, non-discretionary bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week.

It requires employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

Huwa paid $9,174 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, according to labor officials.

“That’s our government for you,” Huwa said. “It’s just kind of interesting that they slap your hand for paying someone too much, and because of that now you have to pay them more, and then you have to pay them double with the liquidated damages.”

“The FLSA requires employers to calculate overtime pay accurately so employees are properly paid, and so that all employers compete on a level playing field,” said John DuMont, wage and hour division district office director in Pittsburgh. “The results of this investigation should encourage other employers in this industry to examine their payroll practices to ensure they comply with the law.”

Huwa said that while the Justice Department’s assertion is technically correct, “if you really look at it, we were doing what we agreed to do in the collective bargaining agreement.”

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