Almost four years since the workers’ hourly minimum wage in Seattle, Washington rose to $15, those working in car rental companies Hertz under DTG Operations Inc. (better known as Thrifty) will finally get back wages corresponding to the hike denied them by their employers. Hertz and Thrifty agreed to pay the nearly $2 million settlement to conclude the workers’ case against them filed with the Department of Labor. https://www.reuters.com/article/employment-seatac/car-rental-companies-settle-seatac-minimum-wage-row-for-2-mln-idUSL2N1LO29Y
The agreement is one of the largest in recent history for the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. It said that in all of last year when it received more than 5,000 wage payment complaints it restored just about $2.8 million in total to workers. Seattle was the first city in the U.S. to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2014.
Some employers such as the car rental services Hertz Corp and Thrifty deferred paying the prescribed minimum wage hike. Along with several other businesses such as the Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurants Association, they questioned the city ordinance in court. They got the lower court’s nod in December 2013. Shortly before the ordinance was to take effect, the lower court excluded the employers and employees doing business at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from coverage of the wage hike ordinance.
But in 2015 the Supreme Court of Washington upheld Seattle’s ordinance, ruling it could be enforced at the airport. Hertz and DTG then began paying the new minimum wage. Its workers sought in 2016 the help of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to make their employers pay the corresponding minimum wage they denied paying the workers from January 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015. Following its investigation, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries forged an agreement with Hertz and DTG.
Hertz and DTG Operations Inc. (Thrifty) will pay per employee amounts ranging from a couple of thousand dollars to $30,000, plus interest. The back wages total $1.51 million, with another $458,651 in interest.
“Now that this agreement is in place, we’re moving ahead to get this money into the hands of the people who worked hard for it. The funds will make a real difference for these workers and their families,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks http://lni.wa.gov/News/2017/pr170906a.asp
Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance is just one of three dozen local minimum wage laws across the U.S. Like in the experience of Hertz and Thrifty workers, many more workers may not be receiving the correct amount in minimum wages.