published on October 12, 2016 - 8:05 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A Fresno recycling company found to be in violation of the minimum wage and record keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has paid more than $30,000 in back wages and damages to six employees.

Investigators from the U.S. Labor Department found that Buy Back Recycling, which has five Fresno locations and is a participant in the CalRecycle program, paid homeless workers identified as “helpers” either a daily rate, food and drinks, or a few dollars, regardless of the hours worked, which is a violation of the federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 an hour.

“Affected [Buy Back] employees worked assisting customers, sorting recycling materials, dumping recyclables into chained baskets and cleaning the locations at the end of the day,” said a statement released Wednesday by the Department of Labor. “Recordkeeping violations resulted from the employer’s failure to record all the hours employees worked and their rates of pay.”

To resolve the case, Buy Back has paid $15,272 in back wages and an equal, additional amount in damages to six employees.

“These vulnerable workers held up their end of the bargain and provided their hard work – they deserve to be paid every cent they have legally earned,” said Nora Pedraza, assistant district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Fresno.

“Designating someone a ‘helper’ instead of an employee does not allow companies to avoid paying minimum wage,” Pedraza added. “The Wage and Hour Division is committed to continuing its work in this industry and in others where our data and evidence show vulnerable workers are more likely subject to these types of violations.”

In 2015, the division began an education and enforcement initiative in the Southern California recycling industry. Working with the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery on joint investigations and sharing facility information, the division found violations of the FLSA in more than 77 percent of facilities investigated.

The FLSA requires that employers pay covered, nonexempt workers at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus overtime at one and one-half times their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who exercise their rights.

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