A federal judge has ordered a Peachtree City auto repair shop to pay back wages and overtime to nine workers, including one who had been given his last paycheck in the form of 91,500 pennies.
A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks and its owner Miles Walker must pay $39,934, while complying with federal wage law and removing all references to a former employee from its website, according to the decree issued last week by Judge Timothy Batten of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Reached via email, an unsigned message from Walker or a representative expressed doubts about the fairness of news coverage and declined comment. “Thanks, but no thanks,” the message said.
In contrast, officials of the U.S. Department of Labor, which brought the action in court said they were pleased with the outcome.
“The court has sent a clear message to employers such as Miles Walker who subject employees to unfair wage practices and outright intimidation and retaliation,” said Atlanta-based Tremelle Howard, the department’s regional solicitor, in a statement. “Workers should not fear harassment or intimidation in the workplace.”
As part of the judgment, Walker was ordered to remove from its website all photos and references to Andreas Flaten, a former employee, who worked for about a year at the auto shop.
Flaten, 29, said Monday that he was like an assistant manager, ordering parts and sometimes serving as a mechanic.
The experience was a good one, he said. “I loved it. I love cars and I love working on them.”
However, he found a job with more flexible hours that was better for his family life, he said. “It was actually a slight pay cut.”
According to the Department of Labor, Walker paid Flaten’s final wages of $915 by delivering “about 91,500 oil-covered pennies and a pay stub marked with an expletive” to his home. Walker Luxury Autoworks also placed defamatory statements about Flaten on company’s website.
“I think he just didn’t want to lose me and he was real upset about my leaving,” Flaten said.
The government found that Walker Luxury Autoworks had violated federal requirements to pay overtime rates for work exceeding 40 hours in a week, a violation covering Flaten and eight other employees. Flaten said his share of the award will be about $8,500.
The investigation and federal court case were carried out by Labor Department officials and attorneys and did not require him to hire his own lawyer, Flaten said. “It is great to see a government entity doing what it is supposed to do.”
The judge’s ruling requires Walker to post a copy of a fact sheet on federal law regarding overtime.
The auto shop’s web site on Monday had no apparent references to Flaten or to the conflict with the government. However, it did have a note that said: “Yes, we accept pennies as payment! They are cash!”