LIHU‘E — After finding out that his company had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act one morning by watching the news, Brandon Miranda, owner of The Miranda Group, a landscaping company on Kaua‘i, quickly became proactive working closely with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Division, making some changes in his office and taking accountability.
“I take full responsibility for the actions that the labor board has found,” Miranda said. “I only wanted to give my team the opportunity to make extra income for their family. It was a shocking misunderstanding on my part that even if my team wanted to work for extra hours they cannot do it unless they are compensated time and a half.”
At the end of October, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) said in a press release, that Miranda paid the $83,192 back-pay to 48 employees for the past three years.
After learning his lesson, Miranda feels there is a misunderstanding and hopes his story helps other business owners be aware of the overtime laws.
WHD conducts investigations for a number of reasons, all having to do with assuring employer compliance with labor laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
“We do not disclose the reason for an investigation,” a DOL spokesperson said in an email. “Many are initiated by complaints. All complaints are confidential; the name of the worker and the nature of the complaint are not disclosable; whether a complaint exists may not be disclosed.”
WHD’s investigation of the Miranda Group’s compliance with the FLSA disclosed violations resulting from the employer’s failure to pay overtime when employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek.
A DOL spokesperson said the investigation found that the employer paid employees at straight-time rates for overtime hours worked on special weekend projects.
“The company paid these hours separately and outside of regular payroll, categorizing the payments as bonuses,” a DOL spokesperson said. “The employer’s failure to record accurately the time employees worked on weekends also resulted in FLSA recordkeeping violations.”
Miranda said his employees knew he could not afford to pay them overtime, and never forced them to work overtime, however, his employees wanted to work extra projects so he would pay them for the time they worked and cut them another check that was considered a “bonus pay” instead of paying them the time-and-a-half.
According to Miranda, one of the weeders that worked for him for over 15 years, makes $25 dollars an hour. If he had to pay overtime, that’s around $37.50 dollars, plus the extra $12 dollars. For that one job, he would get charged $60 an hour to make a small profit on a weeder, which is not feasible to him.
“Unfortunately, the services we do there (has) no work that pays for that kind of hourly commitment hence removing the opportunity for them to make extra money for their family,” Miranda said.
A few years back, while thinking of his staff, Miranda gave all of his employees a 401K-retirement plan with a match to help them learn about saving. However, after the pandemic began, he had to put the match on hold, because he was not sure if his company would get more work.
“At the end of the day my mission is to turn this lesson into a positive one that can help other business owners know the reality of the law,” Miranda said. “After 26 years in business, I was naive to that law, as I always paid time and a half when I requested overtime work. Unfortunately, it works both ways even if the employee wants to work without the overtime pay. It happens all the time in every industry but the law is the law.”
Miranda has made some changes in his office. He hired a Human Resource manager to help make sure his company is in full compliance with all of the private, state, federal, and local government labor laws moving forward.
“We as a company are trying to be proactive in the law and has brought in an HR person to educate our staff as well as looking for an opportunity to educate through an association by our sponsorship to bring education to other companies,” he added.
“It was a very costly lesson but a lesson that improves our growth,” Miranda said. “I always try to instill in our team that our number one asset is room for improvement and it’s lessons along the way that improves our value.”
One of Miranda’s office assistants, Anela Bargamento, has worked with him for two years and vouches for Miranda’s character.
“Brandon is an extremely giving person, he gives more than he would ever receive,” Bargamento said. “I am honored to represent him and his company. He and his whole family have accepted me like family as well and that means a lot to me. He is always willing to teach anyone and everyone his knowledge with nothing expected in return.”
Bargamento said she worked for a prior corporation for about 15 years and felt she was never appreciated.