IS it legal if a DOC work release resident is being paid drastically less than the civilian employees?

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IS it legal if a DOC work release resident is being paid drastically less than the civilian employees?

I am currently working at a fish distribution warehouse while finishing the remaining sentence of a state sanctioned prison sentence. The center job placement officer here tells the employer to not pay those of us from the center that work there the starting nor going pay rate that the other civilian employees are paid or started at. In short I am being paid at the federal inimum wage while the civilian employees are being paid and starting at $11 an hour. I am not sure if the job placement officer is getting a kickback or not. However, I also do not receive the overtime rate when I work overtime which is often. I would like to know if this is nearly an ethical issue or a viable legal issue to which an investigation and potential lawsuit could be filed on.

Asked on September 24, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

1) An employer does not have to pay all employees equally or fairly, and could choose to pay some employees less than others as long as they are not doing so in violation of anti-discrimination law. The chief categories protected by anti-discrimination law are race, color, national origin, sex, age 40 or over, disability, and religion: if someone is paid less due to one of these reasons, they could file a complaint with the EEOC. But there is no protection for people on DOC work release or people with criminal records, so they could choose to pay you less on this basis.
2) However, it appears that you are still subject to the labor laws--minimum wage and overtime--because regardless of your correctional status, you are still an employee of your employer and your employer is obligated to pay at least minimum wage and to pay overtime when you work more than 40 hours in a workweek. If not paid overtime when you should be, you could contact the state or federal department of labor, to see if they will help, or potentially sue for the unpaid overtime. There was a decision in a neighboring federal court holding that you would have to be paid overtime, and while that court's decision is not automatically binding in FL, it is very likely FL would conclude the same.


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