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When do 915,000 Pennies Equal $39,934?

June 27, 2023 | Employment Law

When Judge Timothy Batten of the Northern District of Georgia Court determines nine former employees are owed back wages and damages by Miles Walker, owner of A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks. In addition, the judge’s order forbids Walker from violating federal minimum wage and overtime provisions, requires the removal of photographs and references of the employee who was retaliated against and to conspicuously display a fact sheet about prohibiting retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).


“Workers are entitled to obtain the wages they earned without fear of harassment or intimidation,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “The Wage and Hour Division will use all tools available to ensure workers’ rights are protected and that employers do not retaliate against them when they assert those rights. This case should serve as notice to employers that retaliation will not be tolerated.”


In a shocking display of disregard for fair labor practices, the 2021 incident involving A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks, Georgia auto shop, sparked outrage and shed light on the importance of employee rights and ethical treatment in the workplace. Andreas Flaten, a former employee of A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks, was reportedly paid his overdue wages in pennies, 915,000 of them, covered in grease, after owner Miles Walker learned the former employee had appealed to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for assistance in recovering his missing wages. 


A federal complaint filed by the agency in January of 2022 accuses A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks’ owner Miles Walker of retaliating against the employee, who complained to the DOL when Walker gave him the runaround and refused to pay him after quitting the Peachtree City auto shop. The department was seeking nearly $37,000 in back wages and liquidated damages from Walker after federal investigators say he violated overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found that Walker failed to pay his employees “legally required overtime” when they worked a 40-hour-plus work week and did not “keep adequate and accurate records of employees’ pay rates and work hours,” according to the release.


California, known for its strong labor protections, has several statutes in place to ensure fair treatment for employees. The California Labor Code Section 212, requires employers to pay employees their wages promptly upon termination. These wages must be paid in legal tender, such as U.S. currency, unless the employer and employee mutually agree on an alternative form of payment.


The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) further prohibits discrimination and harassment in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe and respectful environment for employees. The complaint quotes Walker as saying, “How can you make this guy (Flaten) realize what a disgusting example of a human being he is… [Y]ou know what? I’ve got plenty of pennies; I’ll use them.” The Department of Labor contends the method of payment was retaliation for involving the Department of Labor and intentional humiliation, a violation of these laws, and the court agreed.


The A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks decision serves as a reminder of the significance of upholding employee rights and ethical standards in the workplace. California’s employment laws are designed to safeguard workers from unfair treatment and ensure they receive their rightful compensation.


If you have concerns about your overtime pay, contact the experienced attorneys at Lavi & Ebrahimian who will fight for your compensation.