A federal lawsuit between the Department of Labor and the owners of two Sedalia hotels was resolved this week, after it was alleged some of their employees were overworked and underpaid.
KDP Hospitality Group LLC has been ordered to pay $100,000, including $50,000 in unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation plus an additional $50,000 as liquidated damages.
According to court documents, KDP Hospitality Group LLC violated minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act from June 1, 2012, to May 31, 2015, at the Econo Lodge Truman Inn and Motel 6 State Fair Inn, located across from each other on West Broadway Boulevard.
Court documents show the eight named employees will be paid anywhere from almost $400 in back wages to more than $16,000, although the Department of Labor calculated the employees should be compensated a total of $162,820.11 for unpaid minimum wage and overtime.
The owners asked the Department of Labor to disclose the identities of the informants who cooperated with the investigation, but the Department refused the request, stating the need to protect their identities and to protect against possible action concerning their immigration status.
“The immigration status of employees, or any potential witness for that matter, is simply not relevant to this action. The express language of the FLSA extends the minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor protections to ‘any individual’ employed by an employer,” court documents submitted by the Department of Labor state.
Twelve current and former employees spoke with investigators, some using translators as they only speak Spanish. The interviews are varied, with not every employee reporting problems with working overtime or being properly compensated, but almost every employee offered some type of FLSA violation.
According to interviews with investigators, a time clock was not provided for housekeeping employees to track hours, and they weren’t paid hourly, but rather a lump cash sum every two weeks; payments recently changed to checks. One employee said the amount varied throughout the several years she worked at the two hotels.
“In August 2014 we asked why they didn’t pay us per hour and we asked for overtime, and (the owner) said that there was no money to pay this,” one employee said.
The employees said they weren’t allowed breaks, with some eating while cleaning rooms. Others denied that claim, saying they were allowed short breaks. Most only received one day off per week, working anywhere from 60 to 80 hours each week. One employee estimated they worked 100 hours per week.
“We worked all day. We did not take any break or lunch. If we stopped a few minutes to rest, (one of the owners) was complaining ‘work is work,’” one employee said. “We did not mark down the daily hours because (one of the owners) always paid us the same pay, without no importance the number of hours I worked.”
The housekeeping staff had to pay for their own uniforms. Members of the front desk staff said they were provided a uniform, but noticed deductions in their pay for uniform cleaning.
The discrepancies seemed to only affect the housekeeping staff. A front desk employee said they never worked more than 40 hours per week and kept their hours in a log book at the front desk, but were also not allowed to take a break. Another front desk employee said they were paid hourly and received payment in the form of a check. They occassionally worked overtime and were paid, but not the overtime rate of time-and-a-half.
Employees were asked if they knew of any employees under the age of 18. Most said no, but several said they knew of a few, specifically an 11-year-old boy who worked in housekeeping in August 2014 during the Missouri State Fair. Other housekeeping employees also reported working with underage employees.
Investigators interviewed an employee who said they began working housekeeping at the hotels at age 14, getting paid $500 in cash every two weeks. The employee said they typically worked 8 am. to 9 p.m., sometimes leaving at 6 p.m. if it wasn’t busy.
“I worked all day without any breaks,” the employee said. If I sat down to rest for five minutes, (one of the owners) would tell me ‘get up. You should be working. No breaks.’”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.