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Hurricane recovery contractor pays $500K in back wages to 995 workers

San Juan-based contractor Ceres Environmental Services Inc., which installed temporary roofing as part of hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, has paid $500,000 in back wages to 995 employees to resolve violations of the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that field employees, including blue roof installers, carpenters, drivers, and laborers, often worked 12 or more hours per day, six to seven days per week, yet the employer failed to pay them overtime for the hours they worked beyond 40 in a week.

Additional overtime violations resulted when Ceres failed to record and pay for time employees spent working before and after their scheduled shifts, and when they worked through their meal breaks.

“Ceres Environmental Services Inc. also misapplied an overtime exemption to several job categories including clerical office positions, paying those workers flat salaries without regard to the number of hours they worked,” the agency stated.

This practice resulted in overtime violations when those employees worked more than 40 hours per week yet were not paid overtime. The employer also failed to reimburse workers who purchased steel-toed boots that were required as personal protective equipment.

“Employees performing vital disaster relief work must be paid the wages they have legally earned for all the hours that they work,” said Wage and Hour Division Caribbean District Director José R. Vázquez.

“The resolution of this case demonstrates our commitment to those workers, and to providing employers the tools they need to comply with the law. Our work levels the playing field for employers who play by the rules,” he said.

Ceres Environmental Services Inc. performed the Blue Roof/Blue Tarp Prime Contract installing temporary roofing in Puerto Rico from Oct. 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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