The U.S. Labor Department has sued a mental health services provider for retaliating against two Durham employees who were awarded back wages as a result of an earlier investigation conducted by the agency.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court contends that Makin’ Choices, a Fayetteville company with an office in Durham, repeatedly asked two habilitation technicians to return the back wages they received as a result of a 2014 settlement the company reached with the agency. When the employees refused, according to the complaint, Makin’ Choices reduced their pay.
The lawsuit alleges Makin’ Choices violated the anti-retaliation provision of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. It seeks return of an unspecified amount of back wages owed the two employees, Chrishell Gist and Mary McGhee, plus punitive damages.
“Employers must understand they cannot retaliate against an employee who has been wronged,” Wayne Kotowski, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in Atlanta, said in a prepared statement. “Shorting workers once is bad enough, but we simply will not tolerate attempts to retaliate after we’ve stepped in to recover the wages they’ve worked so hard to earn.”
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Makin’ Choices, owner Rachelle Brooks-Blue and a manager at the company.
Brooks-Blue couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit also seeks back wages for Gist and McGhee plus two other employees who allegedly aren’t being paid time-and-a-half for working overtime, a violation of federal law.
In the 2014 settlement, according to the Labor Department, Makin’ Choices agreed to pay more than $100,000 in back pay to a number of employees for overtime and minimum wage violations.