The owner of A Ok Walker Autoworks–who posted several statements to his website, in which he insulted the former employee’s intelligence and character–is now being sued for wrongfully withholding Andreas Flaten’s final paycheck, illegally taking other workers’ overtime pay, and failing to keep pay receipts and other work records.
The United States Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against a Georgia auto repair business after its owner dumped a mountain of pennies in a former employee’s driveway.
According to CBS News, Andreas Flaten had earlier filed a complaint against A OK Walker Autoworks with the Georgia Department of Labor.
In his initial complaint, Flaten said that A OK Walker Autoworks had failed to issue his final paycheck, amounting to about $915.
After the labor department launched an investigation and ordered A OK to compensate Flaten, the repair shop’s owner responded by dropping off Flaten’s paycheck in-person. But instead of bringing a paper check, A OK delivered 91,000 oil-covered pennies, all dumped in the middle of Flaten’s driveway.
However, CBS News suggests that Flaten may have the last laugh: after learning about A OK’s stunt, the U.S. Department of Labor opted to file suit, claiming the shop’s delivery of hundreds of pounds of pennies was an overt act of retaliation.
According to the Labor Department, A OK’s owner—Miles Walker—decided to pay Flaten in pennies within hours of learning that the former employee had submitted a complaint to the state government.
“How can you make this guy realize what a disgusting example of a human being he is,” Walker allegedly said, as recounted in court documents.
“You know what? I’ve got plenty of pennies,” Walker said. “I’ll use them.”
Under federal law, however, any worker in communication with the Labor Department is protected from acts of retaliation.
“Workers are entitled to receive information about their rights in the workplace and obtain the wages they earned without fear of harassment or intimidation,” a U.S. Department of Labor official posted in Atlanta said.
Now, the federal government is suing Walker, saying he not only retaliated against Flaten but illegally deprived other employees of overtime pay, too–all while failing to keep proper pay receipts and work records.
CBS News notes that A OK Walker Autoworks had earlier posted a statement to its website, explaining—in a roundabout sort of way—how and why the company had decided to pay Flaten literal pennies.
The same statement claimed that Walker had asked the Georgia Department of Labor if he was allowed to reimburse Flaten in “any denomination”; Walker said he was given no specific guidance.
“There were exactly 100,003 pennies, 750 dimes, 2 quarters, a nickel, and his pay stub in the pile,” A OK wrote on its website. “That is a lot more than we were legally obligated to give him. Why so much more? We figured that he would have had enough intelligence to just have the pennies counted and exchanged.”
Flaten has since encouraged other workers—no matter where they may be—to file a complaint if and whenever they feel they have been wronged or cheated by an employer.
“They definitely should not be scared to reach out [to Labor Department officials],” Flaten said. “Speak up. Don’t be quiet about it. Because if you’re quiet about it, it’s just going to continue to happen to you and everybody else.”