The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigated Gem Interiors Inc. and found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the H-2B temporary nonimmigrant visa program. The company agreed to pay $126,944 to 95 drywall installers for FLSA minimum wage and overtime violations, and an additional $58,617 to 22 of these workers for violations of the H-2B provisions. The company has been debarred from participating in the H-2B program until 2014, and has paid $82,968 in civil money penalties for its H-2B violations.
Investigators from the division’s Columbus District Office found that Gem Interiors violated H-2B program requirements by certifying false statements on its Temporary Employment Certification applications in 2010 and 2011. For example, Gem Interiors falsely stated the occupation as construction laborer instead of the higher paid drywall installer, used the wage rate for laborer instead of drywall installer, and employed workers outside the area of intended employment. Investigators also found that the workers were required to cut grass, remove trees and do other work at the employer’s home, jobs not covered in Gem Interior’s Temporary Employment Certification.
Additionally, Gem Interiors did not pay the H-2B workers the rate certified on their application for all hours worked, it required H-2B workers to pay unlawful expenses, and it failed to follow proper reporting procedures required by the H-2B program. Gem Interiors failed to reimburse some H-2B employees for inbound travel expenses and required individuals to purchase their visas, thus creating a minimum wage violation.
Finally, Gem Interiors violated the FLSA, which requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The company actually failed to keep records of hours worked and to pay proper overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of 40 per week.