The judge orders the Georgia auto repair shop to pay wages and utilities back to the worker whose final wages he was paid in oily pennies

By Michael E. Kanell, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Updated: 8 hours ago Published: 8 hours ago

ATLANTA — A federal judge has ordered a Peachtree City auto repair shop to pay back wages and overtime to nine workers, including one who received his last paycheck of 91,500 pence.

An OK Walker Luxury Autoworks and its owner Miles Walker must pay $39,934 while complying with federal wage laws and removing all references to a former employee from its website, according to the decree issued by US District Court Judge Timothy Batten last week Northerner District of Georgia.

An unsigned message from Walker or a representative, received via email, questioned the fairness of the reporting and declined comment. “Thanks, but no thanks,” the message said.

In contrast, officials at the US Department of Labor, which filed the lawsuit in court, said they were pleased with the outcome.

“The court sent a clear message to employers like Miles Walker who subject their workers to unfair wage practices and outright intimidation and retaliation,” said Tremelle Howard of Atlanta, the department’s regional attorney, in a statement. “Workers should not fear harassment or intimidation in the workplace.”

As part of the ruling, Walker was ordered to remove from his website all photos and references to Andreas Flaten, a former employee who worked at the auto repair shop for about a year.

Flaten, 29, said Monday he was like a deputy manager, ordering parts and sometimes working as a mechanic.

The experience was good, he said. “I loved it. I love cars and I love working on them.”

However, he has found a job with more flexible hours that is better for his family life, he said. “Actually, it was a slight pay cut.”

According to the Labor Department, Walker paid Flatens’ final wage of $915 by delivering “about 91,500 oil-covered pennies and a payslip with a swear word” to his home. Walker Luxury Autoworks also posted defamatory statements about Flaten on the company’s website.

“I think he just didn’t want to lose me and was really upset that I left,” Flaten said.

The government found that Walker Luxury Autoworks had violated state regulations about paying overtime rates for working more than 40 hours a week, a violation that affected Flaten and eight other employees. Flaten said his share of the award will be approximately $8,500.

The investigation and trial in federal court were conducted by Labor Department officials and attorneys and did not require the hiring of a dedicated attorney, Flaten said. “It’s great to see a government agency doing what it’s supposed to do.”

The judge’s decision requires Walker to release a copy of a fact sheet on federal law regarding overtime.

There were no obvious references to Flaten or the conflict with the government on the dealership’s website Monday. However, there was a note that said, “Yes, we accept pennies as payment!” They are cash!”