A federal court last month ordered Las Vegas-based Unforgettable Coatings Inc., a paint company whose work includes parts of Allegiant Stadium, to pay some $3.69 million in fines for its wage practices.
The company, which uses non-union labor, was charged by the Department of Labor (DOL) with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act for falsifying wage records to prevent workers from receiving proper overtime, falsifying payroll records to bypass some workers and require some workers to volunteer their time on weekends to work without pay, according to a Labor Department news release.
The decision by United States District Court Judge Kent Dawson came as a result of a five-month DOL investigation into Unforgettable Coatings, the first complaint for which was filed in March 2020.
In addition to Nevada, the specialty paints and coatings company headed by Cory Summerhays operates in Arizona, Idaho and Utah.
$1.81 Million in Compensation
The DOL said its investigation, which had the cooperation of the local International Union of Painters and Allied Trades district and the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center, spanned violations from September 2016 through December 2020 and affected 593 employees. Unforgettable Coatings was ordered to pay $1.81 million in compensation for unpaid overtime and another $1.81 million to sever employees, who were not paid on time, as well as other expenses totaling about $68,100.
“The wage theft committed by Cory Summerhays and Unforgettable Coatings Inc. was egregious and deliberate,” Jessica Looman, DOL Principal Deputy Administrator for Wage and Hour, said in a statement. “The employer denied nearly 600 workers in four states their hard-earned overtime pay, tried to hide his greed and illegal actions, and retaliated against workers who asked why they were being cheated.”
Unforgettable Coatings said it was accepting the settlement offer without admitting guilt or wrongdoing. Summerhays said in a statement that the company was willing to litigate before the DOL put this offer on the table.
“The day the DOL agreed to withdraw with no guilty findings, we optimistically set plans to move forward,” Summerhays said.
She said the fact that Unforgettable Coatings used non-union labor may have contributed to the DOL’s investigation.
“One of the lessons learned through this process is that we cannot assume that an objective evaluation of a company will always occur, but that government agencies can sometimes rely on the union agenda in their attempt to crack down on non-unionized companies. Many small businesses cannot survive such a tandem of agendas. But we do not falter and neither will we; UCI is here to stay. We are happy to have put this long ordeal behind us,” said Summerhays.
Former employees of Unforgettable Coatings celebrated the ruling, in statements issued by Arriba, a grassroots organization that protects the rights of low-wage and immigrant workers.
“This is an overwhelming moment that brings you to tears,” Isaac Umana, a former employee, said in a statement issued through Arriba. “Today we have shown that the workers, united, will never be defeated. Cory Summerhays was an abusive businessman who always said that he had the best lawyers, but I knew that justice was on our side. It’s a great victory.”
Other DOL Allegations Against Unforgettable Coatings
Other DOL allegations against Unforgettable Coatings include that the company reduced all workers’ wages by 30 percent, as well as cutting hours and intimidating workers if they were believed to be cooperating with the department’s investigation.
It is not the first time that the paint company has been sentenced to pay money for its wage practices. The DOL said in a news release that it recovered $47,393 for 21 Utah workers for overtime pay, following a 2013 investigation.
“A reasonable business owner might try to avoid repeating a bad and costly decision,” the DOL stated. “Cory Summerhays… opted instead to reprise it, and then some.”
Summerhays denied that the company tried to take advantage of its employees, saying the allegations are “antithetical” to the company’s values.
A former employee contradicted Summerhays’ statement in a note issued through Arriba.
“When I spoke out against insufficient wages and working conditions at Unforgettable Coatings, Inc. I was treated like a traitor and faced ongoing consequences for my reporting,” said former employee Jonas Reyes. “The employer retaliated against me and used my immigration status to try to silence not only me but other colleagues as well. But I decided that I couldn’t accept that deal for myself or for others. We fought and we won.”
As a result of the order, Unforgettable Coatings is also required to show DOL employee payroll and time records for the next three years, upon request, as well as inform employees, in both English and Spanish, of the DOL regulations on overtime pay and workers’ rights.
Summerhays was optimistic that the company will continue to operate, despite the fines and reprimand from the DOL.
“It’s a lot of money,” he said. “However, this is a case involving six companies from various states. We still have no debts; everything will be fine. We continue to provide a service of the best possible quality and at affordable prices for our customers. We are deeply appreciative of our customers who have supported us despite the polarizing falsehoods in certain media outlets. Nothing will deter us from our commitment to serve our employees well, knowing that they in turn will serve our customers well.”
This article is originally published on espanol.reviewjournal.com