Rhode Island Shellfish Farming Company Sued For Unpaid Wages

Rhode Island Shellfish Farming Company Sued For Unpaid Wages

PROVIDENCE — A former employee of American Mussel Harvesters has recently filed a lawsuit against the company over allegations of state and federal labor law violations in which employees were not paid the required minimum or overtime wages required, according to the Providence Journal. 

Robert G. Belmore filed the lawsuit against the company; its owner, William Silkes; vice president and bookkeeper, Jane L. Bugbee; and manager, Gregory Silkes, in U.S. District Court on the basis of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act violations. Belmore claims that he and other employees were subjected to working 50-plus hours during spring and summer seasons without receiving the necessary overtime compensation.

The lawsuit also claims that Bugbee intentionally implemented a Silkes approved payment scheme that consistently under-compensated their employees.

During busy seasons, Belmore allegedly “regularly and routinely” made employees work between 55 and 70 hour workweeks without keeping accurate employee time records. While employees routinely worked overtime, the company only issued payroll checks for 40 hours worked per week.

While employed with American Mussel Harvesters, Belmore earned between $10 and $11 an hour receiving a check of between $400 and $440. However, these checks indicated Belmore worked from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. although his shift often extended to 11 p.m with shifts on Sundays often garnering no compensation at all.

American Mussel Harvesters processes and sells clams, oysters and mussels from around the country and its own Narragansett Bay farm. This industry sees a substantial boom period during the spring and summer months leaving many employees tasked with working extremely high hour amounts.

Important Rhode Island Labor Laws

Labor regulations that apply to Rhode Island workers are mostly constituted by the requirements outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Outside of FLSA labor regulations, state employees and employers are also subjected to the state enforced minimum wage.

As of July 2016, Rhode Island touts a state minimum wage of $7.75 per hour with exceptions including certain age groups and types of industry. If an employee does not meet the necessary standard to be defined as an exempt employee, they must be paid at least the state minimum wage or else the employer will be in violation of state law.

Additionally, unless properly defined as an exempt employee, an employee is required to receive an overtime wage rate of 1.5 times their standard pay rate. This is one of the most frequently violated federal labor laws as an employer can manipulate employee time sheets in a manner that prevents regulatory agencies from discovering infractions.

If an employee works over 40 hours per standard 7-day work week but is not paid their due overtime rate, an employee should contact the relevant labor agencies so an investigation into the employer can begin.

Call (855) 754-2795 to determine if you may have been subjected to minimum or overtime wage violations and are eligible to pursue compensation for withheld wages through an unpaid wage lawsuit.

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