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March 7, 1996

State orders furniture company to pay $105,000 in back wages

TUMWATER - United Furniture Warehouse of Vancouver, B.C., has paid approximately $105,000 in unpaid wages to 94 of its current and former Washington employees in a settlement with the Department of Labor & Industries.

Checks were mailed this week to claimants as a result of an 8-month statewide investigation into complaints by employees of wage-and-hour law violations by the company.

A number of the violations involved failure to pay overtime wages as required by state law, according to Rodger Jones, L&I industrial relations agent in Tacoma who, along with Bob LeMay from the Everett office, headed up the investigation.

The law requires that most salaried workers - such as pieceworkers and commissioned inside salespeople - be paid one-and-a-half times their regular rate when they work more than 40 hours in a work week.

"Many employers attempt to factor overtime into an employee's monthly salary when he or she is hired. Employers say the salary represents X number of regular hours and up to X hours of overtime," Jones said. "But when they do this, they are in violation of state and federal statute - except under very special circumstances."

Fifteen Labor & Industries agents visited all of the company's Washington sales locations in a one-day statewide sweep last May, interviewing managers and employees regarding complaints of wage- and-hour violations. "The coordinated sweep turned out to be an extremely valuable and efficient way of gathering information to get a settlement without having to go to court," Jones said.

"When the department receives a number of what appear to be well-founded complaints of this nature about a particular company, we investigate," LeMay said. "Employers usually come to agreement when faced with a clear-cut case," LeMay said.

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For media information, contact: 
L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5400 or publicaffairs@lni.wa.gov

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