Auto Shop Owner Penalized for Dumping 91,000 Greasy Pennies on Ex-Employee's Property
An auto shop owner in Peachtree City, Georgia, recently found himself in hot water with the Labor Department for retaliating against a former employee who had contacted the regulators regarding a missing paycheck. Miles Walker, the owner of A OK Walker Autoworks, delivered the money owed to the worker in the form of 91,000 greasy pennies dumped on the employee's driveway, CBS News reported.
How It Unfolded
Andreas Flaten, a former employee of A OK Walker Autoworks, reached out to the Labor Department to complain about not receiving his final paycheck. The agency then contacted the auto shop to inquire about the payment, prompting Walker's unconventional response. Two months later, on March 12, 2021, Walker took his retaliation to an extreme by dumping oil-covered pennies, along with a pay statement containing an expletive, in Flaten's driveway.
The delivery, estimated to weigh about 500 pounds, left Flaten shocked and outraged.
Adding Insult to Injury
Not only did Walker choose this peculiar method of delivering the payment, he also went a step further by publicly trashing Flaten on the business' website. The auto shop posted a statement suggesting that the penny dump was a form of punishment for a subpar ex-employee who may have engaged in misconduct. The posting, which has since been removed, insinuated that Flaten may have stolen, killed animals, been lazy, or engaged in other negative behaviors.
The Department of Labor intervened in the situation, filing a lawsuit against A OK Walker Autoworks for retaliation and violation of overtime laws. Under federal labor law, retaliating against employees for engaging with government labor regulators is illegal. The agency also accused Walker of breaking overtime laws by failing to pay nine workers time-and-a-half for labor exceeding 40 hours per week.
The Labor Department's complaint highlighted the shop's attempt to defame Flaten and justify their retaliatory actions.
A Consent Judgment
As a result of the investigation and legal proceedings, a consent judgment was filed last week. A OK Walker Autoworks is required to pay $39,000 in back pay and damages to the workers who were owed overtime. The individual payouts range from $192 to $14,640, and Flaten will receive $8,690. Additionally, the auto shop must remove all written material and photos related to Flaten from its premises and post the consent order in a visible location.
Worker Protection and Consequences
The Labor Department emphasized that worker engagement with government labor agencies is a protected activity. Employees should not fear harassment or intimidation when seeking resolution for workplace issues. The case against A OK Walker Autoworks serves as a reminder that retaliation is unacceptable and has legal consequences.
Walker Refuses To Comment
When reached for comment, Miles Walker, the auto shop owner at the center of the controversy, declined to speak to reporters. His refusal to address the situation only highlights the severity of his actions and the need for accountability.
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