A North Georgia Insurance Agency Owes $50K After Firing an Employee for ‘Inquiring About Pay’

Employees should be free to assert their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, including asking questions about their employers’ pay practices. Unfortunately, too often, asserting those rights comes with a job-related price, up to and including losing one’s job. When that happens, that may represent illegal retaliation, which is itself a violation of the FLSA. Whether yours is a minimum wage case, an unpaid overtime case, a retaliation case, or a combination of the above, an experienced Atlanta employment retaliation lawyer can help you select the best ways to take action.

It’s unclear if a Stone Mountain insurance agency’s insureds always get the “good neighbor” treatment but, according to the U.S. Labor Department, one employee did not, and it’s going to cost the employer.

A federal court recently ordered the insurance agency to pay $50,000 for engaging in retaliation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, a worker at the agency “requested information about compensation.” The worker didn’t get answers to their questions; instead, the worker received a letter of termination, according to a press release from the Labor Department.

The court order required the agency to make the $50,000 payment, and also barred the employer from taking various actions, including: “threatening current or former workers to affect their FLSA rights, making employee working conditions unfavorable, as a way of limiting their FLSA rights, attempting to influence employee participation in a U.S. Department of Labor investigation or instructing workers to avoid speaking to or giving information to its investigators, [or] attempting to fire other workers affected by the court proceedings.”

The Importance of Liquidated Damages in an FLSA Case

In this case, the employer owed $25,000 in back wages and another $25,000 in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages generally are an amount equal to the amount of pay an employer wrongfully deprived a worker, essentially making the total award the equivalent of double damages. The Labor Department, in a 2021 blog post, pointed out the necessity of pursuing liquidated damages, stating that the “Department of Labor recognizes that back wages alone provide insufficient compensation to employees for lost wages. Therefore, liquidated damages are intended to compensate workers for damages they may have incurred as the result of not having been paid timely for all the wages they legally earned.”

The law presumes that employers who owed unpaid wages also owe liquidated damages. The employer can only overcome that presumption — and avoid paying liquidated damages — if it affirmatively proves that it had a reasonable belief that its pay practices complied with the FLSA and that it acted in good faith, even though its actions ultimately proved to be a violation.

Whether you’ve been deprived of pay in violation of the law, been punished at work for asking questions about pay practices, or both, you have the right to take action under the FLSA. The Atlanta employment retaliation attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help you do that. Our team is highly experienced in representing clients harmed by FLSA violations, and we’re ready to get to work for you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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