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2 Minnesota satellite dish companies owe back wages of $203,539

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered two satellite dish installation companies operating in Minnesota to pay their current and former employees a total of $203,539 in back wages. In violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the Labor Department, the companies engaged in a number of unlawful employment practices, including failure to keep accurate employee records, not paying their technicians the minimum wage, and refusing to pay for overtime work.

The first employer, Digital Media Group, a subcontractor of DirectSat USA, which itself is a subcontractor to DirecTV, owes $132,664 to 126 current and former employees in back wages and overtime pay, the Labor Department says. The second, Satellite Link Corp., a subcontractor for Dish Network, owes 33 current and former employees a total of $70,875.

For current and former workers of Digital Media Group, that amounts to an average of $1,052.89 in wages and overtime pay that had been withheld by the company in violation of the FLSA. For those who work or used to work for Satellite Link Corp., the payments average $2,147.73.

It is unclear from the news report whether the companies' failure to pay a minimum wage was due to a misclassification of their employees as salaried when, by law, they should have received hourly wages, but that is a likely reason. It is rare for companies to openly pay less than the minimum wage to hourly workers or to overtly refuse to pay overtime.

Whatever the method, wage and hour law violations tend to have the biggest impact on our society's lowest-paid workers. Often, employees have no idea that the salaries they are offered, when divided by hours worked, doesn't add up to the minimum wage. Also, when workers are offered a salaried position, they are often told they do not qualify for overtime pay.

Wage and hour laws like the FLSA exist to prevent employers from knowingly or unknowingly taking advantage of workers who have no real control over their workload and no supervisory duties by arbitrarily classifying them as salaried.

Both of the satellite installation subcontractors cited by the Labor Department have agreed to pay the back wages and overtime and to comply with the FLSA in the future.

Source: Pioneer Press, "Satellite Dish Companies Owe Back Wages to Minnesota Workers," Leslie Brooks Suzukamo, Aug. 2, 2012

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