Wage payment with oily pennies underlies retaliation claim

Workers have federal legal protections against retaliation for reporting workplace violations, among other things. Typically, retaliation involves actions such as job loss or demotion. In one case, however, the U.S. Department of Labor claimed that a Georgia auto repair shop illegally retaliated against a worker by paying his final wages with 91,500 oily pennies after he submitted a wage complaint to the USDOL.

Pennies and an expletive

In its employment law claim filed in federal court in Georgia, the USDOL claimed that the employee made a wage complaint after he resigned, and the employer did not pay his final wages. In retaliation, according to the USDOL, the employer paid his final wages of $915 by delivering thousands of these oily pennies to the worker’s home accompanied by an expletive written on the final pay stub.

The pennies blocked and stained his driveway and took almost seven hours to remove. Moreover, the company was also charged with publishing defamatory statements about that employee on its website.


In its federal lawsuit, the USDOL is seeking $36,971 in back wages and liquidated damages against this business for allegedly violating retaliation, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Federal Labor Standards Act.

The USDOL claimed this business violated FLSA’s overtime requirements by paying other employees straight time for all the hours they worked, failed to pay overtime rates when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, and did not keep adequate and accurate pay rate and work hour records. The USDOL wants to permanently enjoin this business from future FLSA violations involving retaliation, overtime, and recordkeeping.


Federal law protects workers who engage with or make oral and written complaints with the USDOL from retaliation. Workers may obtain information from the USDOL about their workplace rights without being harassed or intimidated.

Employers violate the FLSA if they discharge or discriminate against workers who file complaints under FLSA or testify or participate in related proceedings. Most courts have also found that internal complaints to employers are protected against retaliation under federal law.

Federal and Texas laws protect workers from retaliation from reporting violation of wage, safety, discrimination, harassment, and other workplace laws.  Attorneys can assist workers who face illegal workplace retaliation and help them pursue private legal action.

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