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Employers Cannot Coerce Employees
by Ron Davis
Certain tenants at shopping centers located in San Antonia, Texas, must begin paying their employees the government-required minimum wage as well as pay for overtime.
The employees work for the tenants on a full-time basis, and they sued the tenants, charging them with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Then for fear of retaliation by their employers, the employees asked the court for a protective order (which the court granted).
The specifics of the employee dilemma include allegations that each must sign a release as a condition to receiving a paycheck. Plus, employees said, paychecks were withheld from employees who did not comply with that “request.”
Moreover, some employees stated that their employer began requiring employees to sign a waiver in order to receive their paychecks. Some employees resisted that requirement and, reportedly, their employer withheld their paychecks for several days.
Also, a contract for employees requires that they are properly compensated for all hours worked, are owed no overtime pay, and have never been required to work “off the clock.”
Finally, the contract requires employees to bring disputes regarding compensation to their employer before seeking legal help.
At the subsequent trial, testimony of one of the tenant’s employees confirmed the violations. He recently worked for a Marble Slab Creamery franchise and declared that his supervisor there told him and several other employees that “there is no point in signing up for a lawsuit because people are not going to get paid.”
Nevertheless, the employee said he joined the lawsuit, only to be bribed by his employer with a loan of $1,000. Then, he added, the employer offered him a raise if he would write an email stating that he wanted to dismiss his claims. The employee also said that his employer later called him and told him, erroneously, that “the lawsuit is over.”
Finally, another former employee of the Marble Slab Creamery and the franchise Great American Cookies was contacted by a supervisor of one of the franchises. She said he asked if she would persuade two other employees to drop their lawsuit. And if successful in her efforts, he said, he would pay her a fee for her efforts.
A U.S. Texas court judge seemingly had little trouble reaching a decision. He explained, “There is ample evidence that the defendants have improperly discouraged their employees from joining this suit and have further attempted to use their influence as employers to force employees who have joined the suit to drop their claims. Evidence establishes that defendants have conditioned the delivery of paychecks to current employees on the agreement to represent that they have no claims against defendants, offered an employee a raise in exchange for telling that he wished to dismiss his claims….”
Added the court, “Corrective notices shall be posted by defendants at their places of business in a location visible to employees.”
(Pacheco v. Aldeeb—F.Supp.3d--, 2015 WL 512830
Decision: September 2015
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