by Max Brantley
LABOR DEPARTMENT RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The state of Arkansas, Game and Fish Commission, has agreed to pay $132,154 in back overtime wages after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found 161 current and former wildlife officers did not receive overtime pay as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Civil money penalties assessed total $13,282.
The investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division in Little Rock determined that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission failed to pay its employees for all hours worked, including those worked over 40 in a workweek. Employees were assigned work at home such as answering telephone calls and completing computer assignments, for which they were
"This is not the first time this organization has not properly compensated its employees," said Cynthia Watson, the Wage and Hour Division's regional administrator for the Southwest. "In this case, these officers were not compensated for assigned duties following their
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has agreed to future compliance with the law. Back wages and civil money penalties have been paid in full.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked more than 40 per week, unless otherwise exempt. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.
GAME AND FISH NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK - A news release sent to the media today by the U.S. Department of Labor inaccurately stated that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission had agreed to pay back overtime wages to its current and former wildlife officers. On Sept. 18, 2008, the AGFC entered into a settlement with the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division to settle a disputed claim that stemmed from the DOL's desk audit investigation that took place between February and May of 2008.
In the September 2008 settlement, the AGFC specifically denied any liability or wrongdoing involving overtime compensation of its wildlife officers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Commission chose to settle with the DOL as the quickest and most economic way to resolve the matter, according to Deputy Director Loren Hitchcock.
The statement, "This is not the first time this organization has not properly compensated its employees," attributed to Cynthia Watson, Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator for the DOL's southwest office, is flatly false. Hitchcock said DOL officials know that the AGFC has not had any previous violations or failed to properly compensate its employees. "We are requesting that Ms. Watson's statement be retracted," Hitchcock stated. Additionally, the DOL's statement that civil penalties had been assessed in the amount of $13,282 was misleading. Actually, the amount was an accumulation of penalties assessed against other Arkansas
state agencies and not the AGFC.
In a November 2008 memo, Hitchcock informed the officers that "in the interest of DOL's concern, and ensuring fair and complete compensation for employees, the Commission has decided to credit all nonexempt wildlife officers with additional work time...during the period Jan. 1, 2006 to March 1, 2008." The AGFC paid 18 former officers a total of $9,647 and provided current officers with a total of 7,586 hours of compensatory time. Most of the wildlife officers have already used their compensatory time.