Zach Forrestall knows what it’s like to run on fumes. For two years, he was a general manager at Exit 1 Tobacco and Beverage Center in Salem, New Hampshire, typically working six days a week while going to school. He and the other employees at the gas station and convenience store received no overtime pay for their long hours of work. It became too much, and something had to give. “I was going to school for computer programming when I first started working there. I had to work a lot of extra hours without being compensated properly and I was scraping to get by – it was really draining,” he said. “I had very little free time for classes and schoolwork; so regrettably, I had to quit going to school.”
Zach knew that he and his co-workers weren’t getting paid properly and had raised the issue with his employer. “The other employees were feeling pretty powerless so I spoke to the owner, but he was adamant about not paying overtime,” he said. Realizing nothing was going to change, he decided to look for another job. He was able to find new employment. When the Wage and Hour Division investigated, they found that to cover his tracks, the employer destroyed time card evidence that showed employees had worked overtime and he also falsified other records to conceal the violations. Wage and Hour Division investigators were not discouraged by such tactics. They gathered proof that Zach’s former employer violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, owing back pay to the employees. Ultimately, to settle the issue the employer paid $18,222 in back wages and another $18,222 in liquidated damages to compensate the 11 workers he had taken advantage of for years. Zach received more than $7,400 in back pay and damages. “I want people to know that you don’t have to let people walk all over you,” Zach said about his experience. And receiving the back pay has fueled his resolve to complete his education: “This wage recovery really helped me. I’m planning to move to California and go back to school to finish my degree.” If you are 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 by using the online tool, Workers Owed Wages. Editor’s note: The DOL Working for You series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other posts in the series here. James Lally is a public affairs specialist for the department in Boston.