Labor Department charges Atlanta area hotels

The Atlanta branch of the U.S. Labor Department issued a report Monday on two years of investigations into area hotels and motels depriving workers of their rightful pay.

The bottom line: The district office completed more than 140 investigations and found 400 workers were due more than $283,000 in back wages.

The department also assessed more than $27,000 in penalties against those employers for “repeat or willful violations” of federal law.

“This industry employs some of the most vulnerable workers we see,” said Eric Williams, director of the division’s Atlanta District Office, in a statement Monday. “Our initiative works to ensure that Georgia’s workers are protected against exploitation and that law-abiding hotel employers aren’t placed at a disadvantage for playing by the rules and paying fair wages.”

The investigations were based on the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Labor Department contends that the employers involved used a variety of means to cloud reality – that is, by using “subcontracting, franchising and third-party management” they claimed that the workers in question were not employees.

Those arrangements, the Labor Department argues, was sometimes used to avoid paying minimum wage or overtime, as required by law.

hotel 1A number of hotels have already paid back wages, including 21 hotels that have paid more than $1,000, according to department spokesman Lindsay Williams.

Hilton Garden in Savannah in has made the most thus far: $26,137.70. Best Western Plus Airport East in Atlanta was second with $20,333.36. Holiday Inn Express in Covington has paid $19,346.75.

Three others have paid more than $10,000, Williams said.

The Obama Administration has been publicly pushing against what it says is “misclassification” of workers. Besides minimum wages, the practice denies some workers protections they are entitled to – like family and medical leave.

Moreover, the practice “generates substantial losses to the U.S. Treasury and the Social Security and Medicare funds, as well as to state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds,” the Labor Department said.

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