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.