The U.S Department of Labor announced Tuesday that overtime and record-keeping violations were found in more than 75 percent of Southern California recycling industry facilities that it investigated.
To date, employers are paying more than $275,000 in back wages and damages to more than 70 workers, the department reported.
The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division and the state Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery — CalRecycle — are working together on the enforcement effort under a memorandum of understanding that prioritizes joint investigations and sharing of facility information.
The agencies are now looking to expand the recycling focus south into the San Diego area.
Investigators said they found many recycling facility workers were paid day rates, or fixed weekly salaries, without regard to the number of hours worked, resulting in overtime violations when these employees worked beyond 40 hours in a work week.
Federal investigators additionally determined that other workers were paid straight time for all hours, including those with more than 40 hours per week; and that most facilities lacked toilets, running water and had unsanitary conditions.
The Wage and Hour Division “is directing its enforcement resources into industries — like the recycling business — that employ a large number of workers who are vulnerable to wage and other violations because they don’t know their rights, or often are afraid to speak up when they do,” said Francisco Ocampo, assistant district director for the division in Los Angeles.
“It’s ironic that businesses that help to keep our environment clean need to clean up their act and follow the law,” he said. “That’s why we are working vigorously in this industry to ensure employers comply with their obligations, and that all workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
As part of CalRecycle’s agreement to share intelligence and coordinate enforcement efforts, federal agents investigated 46 Southern California recycling centers and processors suspected of labor law violations.
Of the 42 sites found in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, investigators found that 27 sites paid cash for all wages or paid workers through a combination of cash and checks; 35 site employees were paid a daily/weekly rate that didn’t guarantee state/federal minimum wage; all sites failed to pay employees overtime wages; and several workers were left alone at their sites with no breaks and inadequate security, according to CalRecycle.
“The fact that these workers were paid in cash with no minimum wage or overtime and forced to work in unsanitary conditions with no access to running water or bathroom facilities shows the need to address compliance in this industry,” Ocampo said.
— Wire reports