A Gamble Not Worth Taking


slot machines in a casino

Some people just don’t get the message.

The message that workers deserve to be paid what they’re owed, that is. If an employer chooses to ignore that responsibility, we’re serious about stepping in to make it right.

Case in point: Several years ago we investigated Enterprise Laundry Services in Chicago and discovered that the company violated the Fair Labor Standard Act’s minimum wage, overtime pay and recordkeeping provisions. Most employers in this situation take immediate steps to pay workers what they are owed and to put safeguards in place to make sure those kinds of violations don’t happen again.

But since then, this laundry company and owner Margaret Matkowska refused to comply with three court orders to pay back wages and damages to 61 workers who had been shorted. Fines for civil contempt are outstanding, too, bringing the total amount owed to $249,426.

And that’s not even the worst of it.

We discovered Matkowska has spent $47,000 in corporate and personal funds since November by gambling and making large cash withdrawals at four casinos, sometimes even using corporate payroll accounts to pay for her gambling habit.

Once we found out, we took the unusual − but appropriate step − of asking the court to appoint an independent receiver to take control of the company’s assets. The judge agreed, and now that receiver will be able to use those assets to pay the back wages and damages to the workers.

This kind of reckless behavior is inexcusable, and made worse by the fact that the workers employed at this business were primarily low-wage. They count on every dollar they earn to pay the bills and keep their families fed.

Employers should know that we will use every tool available, including litigation, to make sure workers receive the money they have rightfully earned.

If you are a worker concerned about your company’s pay practices, or you are an employer who wants to be sure you are complying with the law, learn more on the Wage and Hour Division’s website or by calling 1-866-4-US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243). You also can check to see if back wages are being held for you as the result of an investigation using the online tool, Workers Owed Wages.

David Tanury is a trial attorney in the department’s Office of the Solicitor in Chicago who was the lead attorney on this case.


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Comments

Enjoyed this article. I am glad that those employees got their wages.

So let's see here... We have the owner of a business that has been providing jobs for many people over the years. The article doesn't state how much actual overtime errors they had, but instead lumps fines to list the total amount the company "owed."

Second, in addition to further publicly shaming her (by listing her by name in this article other places), the DOL essentially seized her company. Simple question David... How much were the OT violations before DOL did what it indicates in the link to this article: "The order included fines of $150 per day until they complied. The order also required the defendants to demonstrate their compliance with the FLSA from January 2014 to the present by submitting payroll records to the division and to pay $5,000 in attorney’s fees. When they failed to comply as ordered, the court increased the daily fine to $200 and imposed additional sanctions on Nov. 6, 2015."

The linked article goes on to say how she has a "gambling habit..." Now the DOL is in the business of clinical medical diagnosis on the people and companies it investigates. This at a minimum seems that they are practicing medicine without a license!

If I'm to believe this article, the owner of the company employed people and didn't pay overtime correctly some of the time. We're never told why the company was investigated. But for whatever reason, some errors were found and they were ordered to pay the employees. We're not told if she appealed or disputed the findings, or if there were other factors.

I NEVER want the DOL or other government agency seizing control of business unless there is imminent death or injury or other serious safety conditions present. It is wrong and the American people need to wake up to this incredible abuse of power!

Hello David Tanury,

I am glad your work is to assist employees. It's not an issue of a region but it's an problem of the world. There should be an appropriate team assisting employees to get their full wages complete. For example, talking about Saudi Arabia, respectful Muslim country, workers find it quite harder to get their full wages. What should world do for this?

My suggestion Junaid is to go to Saudi Arabia and find out if there is really a problem before posting here. Some people not receiving a paycheck with mistakes (as we see here on the DOL PR Blog) had problems determining their proper paycheck in the first place. If you determine there is a problem, perhaps you can help the person talk with their employer about sorting it out. How's that?

What everyone, seems to be really missing here is FRAUD and WAGE THEFT to name but a few! To look at all of this, slavery was NEVER abolished- these plantation owners just migrated to another area that they could get away with! So many of them do too! They know better! So, let's ask them why they do it? The green appeal---
Congrats to the DOL & all the warrior legal people fighting this! I am a VICTIM of this many times over and will stand up each and every time! Many of us suffer from shell shock/PTSD because of this... We are good, honest, hard working people and look how we are treated! Not to mention the circus of re-employment...
I say too, equal fairness to the "at will," doctrine and much more severe penalties to these slave owners! Can we say PRISON TIME? Educate the employees so they know their rights! Arm them to fight back and force the slave owners to change! Greed needs to go in a huge way! We will not survive unless it does!

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