Case Stories: September - December 2016

Paid Sick and Safe Time
The complainant alleged that the international transportation and shipping company he worked for retaliated against him after he refused to work required overtime without receiving any prior notice immediately following his scheduled shift. Prior to this, the complainant had notified his employer that he could not work overtime without at least 24 hours' notice because he was the primary caregiver for his mother, who had a disability. After being disciplined, the complainant brought a doctor's note confirming his mother's condition. The employer then told the complainant he would not be allowed to work any overtime, effectively depriving him of 3-9 hours of overtime he usually worked per week. OLS's investigation showed that both the discipline and deprivation of overtime constituted retaliation; the negotiated settlement agreement included $17,018.34 in back wages and interest to the complainant, $8,142.75 in liquidated damages, and $1,000 in penalties. The employer also paid $1,500 in fines and penalties to the City for the violations.

Minimum Wage/Paid Sick and Safe Time
OLS's investigation found that a local espresso café was paying several employees below Seattle's minimum wage. The PSST allegation claimed the employer utilized a "vacation fund" to deposit funds into employees' accounts. The amounts and terms were substantially compliant, so OLS found no PSST violation; however, in 2016 the employer abolished its vacation fund in lieu of a compliant PSST policy.


Paid Sick and Safe Time Retaliation: The complainant in this case alleged that she was terminated because she used PSST. OLS's investigation showed that the complainant was absent from work for three consecutive weeks without providing any notice to the employer that she was going to be absent. OLS issued a no cause finding.

Minimum Wage/Wage Theft/Paid Sick and Safe Time
A former employee alleged that a local restaurant did not pay an employee for 784 hours of work, then terminated him when he asked about it. After responding initially to OLS's request for information, the employer stopped cooperating with the investigation. OLS ordered the employer to pay $12,035.52 in back wages and interest to the employee, and $3,500 to the City of Seattle for willfully resisting the investigation. ·        

Fair Chance Employment
A City of Seattle temporary employee alleged that a City of Seattle department failed to hire him for a permanent position because of his criminal history. OLS's investigation showed that the department did not identify the criminal history that was the basis for its decision, did not provide the complainant with an opportunity to provide verifiable information, and did not hold the position open for two days - all required under the Fair Chance Employment Ordinance. The department agreed with OLS to pay the complainant $500 and hire him for the permanent position. 

Minimum Wage
After a lengthy and difficult investigation, OLS found that a national prepared food company owed 156 employees a total of $210,213.19 in back wages and interest. OLS also assessed liquidated damages amounting to $109,320.20 for employees whose rights were violated on or after 1/16/16, as well as $15,500 in civil penalties and fines payable to the City of Seattle. OLS issued a press release describing this case, which was OLS's biggest financial remedy issued to date. 

Fair Chance Employment
A local bank posted an advertisement that included a categorical exclusion for applicants with a criminal history. As part of the settlement agreement, OLS persuaded the employer to pay a $500 penalty, attend training, implement a Fair Chance Employment policy, and agree to compliance monitoring.


Minimum Wage/Paid Sick and Safe Time
OLS investigated a large security services company for paying a lower minimum wage in 2016 without paying towards employees' medical benefits, and not paying employees for use of accrued PSST hours. OLS's investigation found that the employer's minimum wage violation was widespread, affecting 170 employees (with some employees earning only $8 per hour). The employer also admitted to not paying an employee for twelve hours of PSST. Since this was the employer's second labor standards violation in a year, the settlement agreement included $34,641.19 in back wages and interest, $34,696.98 in liquidated damages, and $3,595 in civil penalties. 

Minimum Wage/Wage Theft
A worker alleged that a grocery delivery service paid her $298.05 for 57 hours of work. In an initial conversation, the employer admitted it did not keep time cards, payroll or other personnel records for the complainant; after that call, the employer failed to respond to multiple emails, and provided no evidence to support their claim that they'd paid the worker. OLS's investigation also showed that the employer failed to comply with notice and records requirements. The employer was ordered to pay the complainant $425.51 in back wages and interest and $787.98 in liquidated damages, as well as pay a $500 civil penalty to the City.    

Wage Theft
After a worker alleged that a communications tech company did not pay him a commission for his last month of work, the employer submitted the employment contract signed by the complainant that explicitly stated that the employer reserved the right to adjust commission rates when the profit margins were substantially different than average sales. While the contract demonstrated that no violation had occurred, OLS's intake investigator negotiated a settlement agreement in which the employer agreed to pay the complainant $2,000 to settle the matter.    

Wage Theft
The complainant alleged that a local pub did not pay last paychecks to her and other employees when their employer closed the business after the owner became ill. The employer admitted that he had not paid employees their last paycheck, because the FDA froze all his assets and the bank would not release the necessary funds. He also was unable to provide the payroll documents necessary to calculate damages because he had been locked out of the business premises. At the same time, the complainant stopped responding to OLS's investigator. Eventually, the complainant's father let us know that she had died unexpectedly. Given the circumstances, we decided to dismiss the complaint without prejudice.

Paid Sick and Safe Time /Retaliation:
OLS's investigation found that a security services company had retaliated against one of their workers by writing him up for using PSST. OLS's settlement agreement addressed both the retaliation and the employer's ineffective call-in notification procedure: the employer agreed with OLS to remove the write up from the complainant's file, implement a compliant PSST policy, undergo training, and pay $1,000 to the complainant and $1,500 in civil penalties to the City.

Minimum Wage
OLS investigated a local hotel for minimum wage violations, not providing notice of employment and wage payment information, and retaliation against an employee after he asked questions about a decrease in his hourly wage. Despite the employer's refusal to provide payroll records, OLS's investigation showed that the employer had violated the notice provisions, failed to pay two employees the minimum wage, and retaliated against the complainant. Months of negotiation eventually resulted in a settlement agreement satisfactory to both sides: the employer agreed with OLS to pay $1,771.05 in back wages and interest, $1,066.47 in damages, and $100 to the City.

Minimum Wage
A large national auto repair employer had been paying approximately 75 Seattle part-time employees $12.50 per hour without paying toward medical benefits. The investigator calculated back wages and interest owed to employees, then negotiated a settlement agreement requiring the employer to pay $12,967.69 in back pay plus interest.   · 

Paid Sick and Safe Time
A local arborist working on a City contract allegedly failed to provide PSST to its employees. A collective bargaining agreement waived some of the employer's responsibility to provide PSST, but not all. The investigator negotiated a settlement agreement in which the employer agreed to pay out all PSST hours employees should have accrued during the months of noncompliance, plus interest - a total of $20,165.87.

Wage Theft
A restaurant did not provide employment information or pay employees who attended the employer's voluntary orientation meetings. Since the employer had not tracked the names of the employees who had attended orientation, they agreed with OLS to pay every worker who was employed at the time of the meetings for 1.5 hours plus interest - a total of $401.70.


Wage Theft
OLS received this case after a training on labor standards put on by one of our Community Outreach and Education Fund partner organizations. One of the training participants alleged that a retailer had withheld federal tax deductions from the employee's pay check, but kept the money instead of transmitting it to the IRS. OLS's investigation showed that the employer had indeed kept the deductions it withheld as taxes, and also had not provided notice of rights and employment information, as well as PSST notification. In settlement agreement, the employer agreed with OLS to pay the complainant $814.75 in back wages plus interest, as well as correct the complainant's tax documents to fully remedy his tax issues.


Paid Sick and Safe Time
A hair salon franchise's PSST policy was out of compliance because it capped accrual at 40 hours and limited carryover to 8 hours per year. When the employer received the notice of investigation, she immediately contacted our office to settle the case. Employees' back-PSST was reinstated in just 33 days.


Wage Theft
An event planning company attempted to force a former employee to pay a check cancellation fee after the employee's last check was lost in the mail. After negotiation with OLS's investigator, the employer agreed to pay the complainant his last check plus interest, and revise its company-wide missing paycheck policy so that employees no longer would be required to pay money or assume liability as a condition of receiving payment for hours worked. 

Minimum Wage/Wage Theft
A marijuana store refused to respond to OLS's investigation, which resulted in an order directing the employer to pay back wages and civil penalties. OLS worked with the City's Department of Finance and Administrative Services to revoke the owner's business license; as soon as the employer was notified that his business license would be revoked for nonpayment of the order, they immediately got in touch with OLS to pay. The City Attorney's Office then negotiated a settlement agreement with the employer that required them to pay $393.17 to one employee and $1,500 in civil penalties, plus additional interest. ·        

Minimum Wage/Wage Theft
Despite many phone calls, an email and a subpoena, a hair salon did not respond to OLS's investigation of allegations that it failed to pay the minimum wage and failed to pay for all hours worked. OLS's investigator used other resources to compile an employee list, schedules and wage information. After extensive interviews, meticulous review of documents and careful calculations, OLS concluded that the employer owed $47,693.03 in back wages and interest to five employees, as well as $23,392.42 in liquidated damages to three employees. OLS also assessed $8,500 in civil penalties and fines for willfully resisting the investigation, failing to provide notice of pay information and failing to provide notice of rights.

Paid Sick and Safe Time
A technology company acknowledged that it had failed to provide enough PSST hours to its workers, as well as that it wrote up some employees for using PSST hours. In settlement, the employer agreed with OLS to reinstate back-PSST for more than 180 workers and remove PSST-related disciplinary records employees' files.