A Berlin limousine company must pay $500,000 in back wages to 183 drivers who were denied overtime pay, under a federal court judgment announced Wednesday.
Premier Limousine and its owner, Stephen DiMarco, were sued by the U.S. Department of Labor in March 2012. The judgment, filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford, also requires the company to pay unspecified damages to the affected drivers.
Federal workplace regulators said Premier’s drivers were routinely paid straight-time wages for overtime work.
DiMarco said in a statement Wednesday that the drivers were exempt from overtime to give them flexibility.
“During the past 30 years, our chauffeurs have been exempt from overtime and have benefitted from the freedom to work the hours that met their needs,” DiMarco said.
He said that “despite Premier’s vigorous defense and the fact that the law throughout the country is still unsettled, we have entered into this settlement to put this matter behind us and will comply fully with its terms.”
The labor department had a different view of Premier’s practices.
“We found many employees working long hours without any overtime compensation,” said the labor department’s Michelle Garvey. She directs the Wage and Hour Division’s Hartford office.
Garvey said these practices are common in the industry and that investigators are making unannounced visits to limousine services throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island to identify other violations.
Garvey said the crackdown helps “to ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers.”
The labor department sued Premier Limousine and DiMarco under the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleging drivers who operated sedans, limousines and sport utility vehicles were not paid at the time-and-a-half overtime rate when they worked beyond 40 hours in a week.
DiMarco maintained that Premier has “always operated in good faith and in compliance with all applicable wage and hour laws.”
The labor department said in a statement Wednesday that Premier’s payroll records also failed to reflect drivers’ total daily and weekly hours, as required by the federal act.
The court judgment includes back wages, damages, and interest on the money that Premier should have paid the workers in the first place.
Companies who commit these violations are receiving “what is, in essence, an interest-free loan from their employees’ paychecks,” said Michael Felsen, the labor department’s regional solicitor in New England.