Georgia Auto Shop Owner Who Paid Ex-Employee in 91,500 Oily Pennies Ordered to Pay $40K in Back Wages, Damages

a bucket full of pennies and an envelope sitting on top of it

Miles Walker left 91,500 oily pennies in his former employee’s driveway in retaliation for that worker filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, authorities said.

The owner of an auto repair shop in Georgia will have to pay a pretty penny to his workers after retaliating against a former worker who reached out to the U.S. Department of Labor, officials said.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a complaint in federal court against Miles Walker, owner of AOK Walker Luxury Auto Works, after he was found to have retaliated against Andreas Flaten, a former employee who went to the department because Walker failed to pay out the employee's final paycheck of $915, according to a news release from the department. 

In retaliation, Walker left 91,500 oily pennies in the ex-employee’s driveway, along with a pay stub that had an expletive on it, the release said. Walker also used the company website to publish defamatory comments about the former employee authorities said.

Flaten resigned from his position in November 2020 but didn’t receive his pennies until almost four months later, The Telegraph reported

The coins blocked and stained Flaten’s driveway and it took nearly seven hours for him to remove them all, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The department found that Walker hadn’t paid his workers their overtime pay and instead was paying them their regular hourly wage, despite working over 40 hours in a workweek. 

“Workers are entitled to obtain the wages they earned without fear of harassment or intimidation,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “The Wage and Hour Division will use all tools available to ensure workers’ rights are protected and that employers do not retaliate against them when they assert those rights. This case should serve as notice to employers that retaliation will not be tolerated.”

Walker was also found to have violated overtime provisions and had paid his employees their regular hourly pay when they should've been getting overtime pay for workweeks that they worked over 40 hours, said the release.

Due to the incorrect payments, the court ordered Walker to pay almost $40,000 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to nine workers, the release stated.

“The court has sent a clear message to employers such as Miles Walker who subject employees to unfair wage practices and outright intimidation and retaliation,” said U.S. Department of Labor Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta. “Employers who mistakenly believe they can willfully violate labor laws at the expense of employees and competitors must understand that we will do everything within our rights to bring them to justice.”

Along with the payout, Walker also had to remove any reference to Flaten on the company website and can never reference him again, according to the release.

As of Tuesday, the website doesn’t have any reference to Flaten specifically, but does appear to include a reference to the incident involving Flaten. “And yes we accept pennies as payment! They are cash!” the site reads. 

Coinstar, known for their self-service coin-counting kiosks, was able to step in and help Flaten cash his 91,500 pennies, Coinstar said in a press release.

“It was a shock and frustrating to be paid in this manner, and it was an extra burden that the pennies were covered with an oily substance,” said Flaten. “I was spending an hour or two a night trying to clean the pennies and probably only cleaned off about $5 worth. I was so relieved and grateful that Coinstar agreed to help me.”

Coinstar also matched the penny value and agreed to donate $1,000 to local charities of Flaten’s choosing. The company said they will be splitting the money between two animal shelters in the Atlanta area. 

“When we heard about Mr. Flaten’s penny problem, we were happy to offer our assistance,” said Jim Gaherity, CEO of Coinstar. 

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