Topeka Company Shortchanged Workers Transporting Vets: Labor Dept.

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Topeka-based company failed to pay its workers hundreds of thousands of dollars for transporting American veterans to VA medical centers in Indiana, the U.S. Dept. of Labor says.

Assisted Transportation's 52 workers provided wheelchair and van services to former servicemen and women, taking them to clinics in Marion and Evansville, Indiana, the agency explained. They have filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Lay Judges to win the back wages due.

"Assisted Transportation received government funding to provide services to our nation's veterans," said said Norma Cervi, Director of the Labor Dept.'s Wage and Hour Division. "It has a legal and moral obligation to abide by the rules of the signed contract that requires proper pay to employees for work performed."

Government investigators from the department's St. Louis office contend that the company misclassified its 51 drivers as taxi cab drivers, meaning each of them was owed an additional $3 to $5 per hour. They were also only paid that rate when a veteran was in the vehicle. Any other time - like when they were waiting in the parking lot or doing paperwork - was paid at a lower rate. Once those violations were taken into account, the workers were losing out on fringe benefits as well.

One employee was also misclassified as a travel clerk, even though he did the work of a motor vehicle dispatcher, the Labor Dept. said.

:Governemt contracts include specific requirements regarding pay and benefits. Contractors are aware of these obligations when they bid for jobs and when contracts are awarded. Tax payers have a right to expect that federal contractors, who are paid with tax dollars, will comply with the law," added Cervi.

In all, the department says the employees were shorted $616,187 in prevailing wages, fringe benefits, and overtime