Department of Labor orders California recycler to pay back wages

Federal agency determines that Buy Back Inc. violated the minimum wage and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

October 12, 2016
Recycling Today Staff

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division have found that Buy Back Inc., a recycling firm headquartered in Fresno, California, has violated the minimum wage and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Buy Back Inc. collects and recycles aluminum, plastic and glass containers at five locations in Fresno. The company is a CalRecycle program participant.

According to the Department of Labor, Buy Back paid homeless workers, which it identified as "helpers," either a daily rate, food and drinks or a few dollars regardless of the hours worked, resulting in the company’s failure to pay workers at least $7.25 per hour, which violated the federal minimum wage requirements. Recordkeeping violations resulted from the employer’s failure to record all the hours employees worked and their rates of pay, the agency says.

Buy Back has paid $15,272 in back wages and an equal, additional amount in damages to six employees.

“These vulnerable workers held up their end of the bargain and provided their hard work – they deserve to be paid every cent they have legally earned,” says Nora Pedraza, assistant district director of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor in Fresno. “Designating someone a ‘helper’ instead of an employee does not allow companies to avoid paying minimum wage. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to continuing its work in this industry and in others where our data and evidence show vulnerable workers are more likely subject to these types of violations.”

Starting in 2015, the Wage and Hour Division began an education and enforcement initiative of the recycling industry in Southern California. Working with the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) on joint investigations and sharing facility information, the division found FLSA violations in more than 77 percent of the facilities it investigated.

The FLSA requires that employers pay covered, nonexempt workers at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus overtime at one and one-half times their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.

The law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who exercise their rights.