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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Rainwater: Employers 'must understand that they have no right' to punish cooperation

ZdN Inc. and owner Shawna Bingham, operator of a Blackjack Pizza & Salads franchise in Firestone, Colo., are alleged to have terminated two workers whom Bingham suspected "complained to the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) about the employer’s pay practice and participated in the investigation that followed" according to the Jan. 17 announcement.

“Federal law protects workers’ rights to report wage violations and participate in an investigation without fear of reprisal,” Regional Solicitor John Rainwater said in the announcement. “A U.S. Department of Labor investigation found the employers illegally terminated two workers who allegedly submitted a complaint and participated in a departmental investigation, both of which are protected activities.”

The DOL complaint was filed in federal court after the investigation found ZdN and Bingham terminated the two workers when Bingham found out about the WHD inquiry, the report states. The agency alleges "Bingham told one of the workers that she was appalled that the employee complained to the division."

The complaint claims Bingham asked the off-duty workers to come to the restaurant, where they were interviewed by a federal investigator, according to the report. "Later that day, Bingham terminated both employees," the DOL reports in the statement.

Rainwater said ZdN and Bingham "must understand that they have no right to prevent an employee from participating in a federal investigation.”

“Our action demonstrates that we will hold accountable an employer who retaliates against workers who question their pay practices and seek assistance by bringing their concerns to the attention of federal authorities,” Rainwater said.

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