Car wash owners often at center of wage and hour disputes

When a Tennessee worker is struggling to support a family or to save money for a better life, every dollar counts. Hourly workers in particular may find it a struggle to make ends meet, especially if their employers take advantage of them. While the law protects workers from unfair wage policies, unscrupulous employers may take advantage of workers' lack of knowledge of those labor laws. Recently in another state, a wage and hour dispute brought justice to hundreds of workers whose boss regularly violated their rights.

The owner of a dozen car washes across the state often employed immigrant workers who spoke little English and knew nothing of the labor laws that protected them. The car wash owner allegedly made it a routine for his workers to complete certain tasks before clocking in and to clock out at any time during their shifts when business was slow. The investigation and litigation related to these allegations lasted over two years.

Apparently, part of the delay was the deceptive and coercive tactics in which the court accused the car wash owner and his counsel of engaging. The defense allegedly destroyed evidence, such as emails and surveillance videos, and tampered with witnesses. The car wash owner agreed to pay the 800 affected workers $4.2 million in back wages, damages and civil penalties to resolve the matter. It is possible the amount could go up if more workers come forward.

Wage and hour disputes are common in car washes in Tennessee and across the country, but many workers suffer from wage theft in other industries, such as food services, in-home care and the garment industry. Every worker deserves a fair wage for his or her time and effort. Those who suspect their employers are cheating them of what they earn have the right to seek the advice of an attorney.

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