After complaining about not receiving his final paycheck of $915, a man discovered 91,500 pennies dropped off in his driveway by his boss, the owner of a Georgia auto shop, according to federal labor officials.
A pay stub with an expletive written on it was left on top of the pile of copper coins that were coated with oil, McClatchy News previously reported.
Miles Walker, the owner of A OK Walker Autoworks in Peachtree City, decided to pay Andreas Flaten in pennies on March 12, 2021 after learning the former employee had gone to the U.S. Department of Labor about the missing paycheck, according to a lawsuit filed by the agency in federal court.
“How can you make this guy realize what a disgusting example of a human being he is …. [Y]ou know what? I’ve got plenty of pennies; I’ll use them,” Walker is accused of saying, the complaint shows.
Now Flaten is owed much more than the value of his final paycheck after taking the matter to labor officials, which accused Walker of retaliating against him, according to the agency.
Walker and his company will pay $39,934 in back wages and liquidated damages to nine employees, including Flaten, in response to the lawsuit, the agency announced in a June 16 news release.
McClatchy News contacted an attorney representing Walker and the auto shop for comment on June 19 and didn’t receive an immediate response.
An investigation by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that, in addition to retaliating against Flaten, the former employee and eight other workers weren’t properly paid for working overtime, officials said.
Flatten will be paid $8,690 in back wages and liquidated damages as part of a federal judge’s consent judgment issued on June 13, which resolves the case, court records show.
“Workers are entitled to obtain the wages they earned without fear of harassment or intimidation,” Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta said in a statement.
‘What started out as a gotcha to a subpar ex-employee, sure got a lot of press…’
The lawsuit against A OK Walker Autoworks and Walker was initiated in December 2021, about nine months after Flaten was paid in oily pennies.
Prior to that payment, Walker argued Flaten’s paycheck had been prepared but “never made it to the mail,” the complaint says.
After delivering the pennies and the attention that followed, a message was posted to the auto shop’s website about Flaten, according to the complaint, saying:
“What started out as a gotcha to a subpar ex-employee, sure got a lot of press…Let us just say that maybe he stole? Maybe he killed a dog? Maybe he killed a cat? Maybe he was lazy? Maybe he was a butcher? . . . know that no one would go to the trouble we did to make a point with out [sic] being motivated.”
As part of the federal judge’s order, Walker and his company were told to follow federal minimum wage and overtime requirements and were prohibited from making references to Flaten on the company’s website, officials said.
As of June 19, A OK Walker Autoworks’ website mentions the “pennies issue” in a post on its testimonials page but doesn’t directly refer to Flaten.
“Most reviews for A OK Walker are not from actual customers,” the testimonial page reads. “After the pennies issue went viral the kids in the basement fabricated tons of fake reviews on multiple reviewing sites.”
It continues by telling site visitors to disregard most reviews posted between March 2021 and July 2021.
A OK Walker Autoworks has been in business repairing vehicles for over 25 years.
Peachtree City is about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta.