Boston Hides & Furs to pay $925k in back wages and damages to workers, Labor Dept. says

The US Department of Labor said it has secured a consent judgment in federal court ordering Boston Hides & Furs Ltd. to pay $825,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to 14 underpaid employees of the wholesale animal hide business that operates in Chelsea.

The defendants were also ordered to pay a total of $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to 10 workers. According to the Labor Department asserts, those workers were unlawfully fired for cooperating with the investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

“This consent judgment does not represent a finding of any violation of law against Boston Hides on any fact or legal assertion,” Boston Hides & Furs’ attorney Gary M. Feldman wrote in an e-mailed statement. “This was a negotiated resolution. Boston Hides continues to deny the claims asserted.”

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While neither admitting nor denying the Department of Labor’s allegations, the defendants agreed to pay 14 workers a total of $412,500 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, the department said in its press release.

The department said it filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 2012 alleging that the defendants violated the minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, and “hot goods” provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The department’s press release included a statement from Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor in Boston.

“The treatment of these workers was unconscionable,” Felsen said. “As we did in this case, we will pursue all appropriate legal means to ensure that workers receive the proper wages and treatment they deserve under the law. And in the future, if Boston Hides & Furs ever ships a hide that was handled by an employee who was paid improperly, they will be liable for contempt of court.”

Feldman, the Davis Malm & D’Agostine attorney representing Boston Hides & Furs, said: “If the case proceeded through discovery and trial, Boston Hides would have demonstrated that the amount of hours the DOL claimed was grossly inflated. Boston Hides also would have proved that it did not fire the workers or retaliate in any way. To the contrary, each of the individuals stopped coming to work after the federal government showed up at the workplace. Boston Hides concluded it was in its business interests to amicably resolve these claims at this time and move forward with its business, continuing to be a source of good employment for many families in the Chelsea community.”