The US Department of Labor has resolved a legal action against a Texas company, Flour Enterprises Inc. for its failure to pay relief workers who participated in the Katrina clean up and rehabilitation efforts. The company will pay one million dollars to 154 workers. The case is entitled Solis v. Universal Project Mgmt., Inc., and was filed in the Southern District of Texas.

The DOL had also secured a default judgment against another Houston, Texas company for wages due workers which arose from the same investigation. That case is entitled Solis v. Universal Project Mgmt., Inc., and was filed in the same federal court..

Fluor, an engineering and construction firm, functioned as the General Contractor when it contracted with the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. In turn, Fluor Enterprises subcontracted the work of inspecting trailers for the displaced people who were left homeless by the disaster to Universal Project Management.

The field investigation conducted by the DOL revealed that the companies did not pay time and one-half overtime, but rather (and against the law) paid only straight time for overtime hours. A DOL official explained that “some employees involved in the inspection of trailers during the hurricane recovery worked up to 84 hours in a week without the required overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.”.

The Secretary of Labor observed that “workers who help rebuild our communities and secure the safety of local residents following natural disasters should be fairly and legally compensated for the work they perform.”

It is shameful that these employers should disregard such a basic tenet of wage-hour law, i.e. paying proper overtime, especially to workers who were likely not earning that high of an hourly wage to begin with. The mind boggles. I often take issue with Departments of Labor when defending/representing clients, but I applaud this use of the agency’s investigative and enforcement powers.