According to the Houston Chronicle, Houston City Councilwoman Helena Brown is facing accusations that she deducted hours from employees’ timecards in an illegal effort to avoid paying these workers the overtime they earned. Brown, a first term Councilwoman, allegedly subtracted three work hours a day from a single employee’s timecard numerous times and, on at least six occasions, deleted enough time from her employees’ records for the total number of hours worked to fall below 40. At one time, the Chronicle reports, Brown’s staff included five part time workers whose timecards all indicated they had worked only39 hours. The implication is that Brown artlessly doctored these to fall just beneath 40, costing her employees their overtime pay.
If the allegations described in the Houston Chronicle are accurate, Councilwoman Brown may be facing serious consequences in the near future. Failing to pay employees overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek is illegal under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as is tampering with hourly pay records. At this time, the Harris County district attorney has not confirmed that an investigation into Brown’s conduct is taking place, but did say the Public Integrity Unit would handle a complaint if one were filed. Various news sources have speculated about potential charges, with many including “tampering with a government document,” a felony which could carry jail time or serious fines.
Sadly, situations such as these are not uncommon. All over the United States workers fail to receive the compensation they have earned and deserve, particularly in low wage industries. Fortunately, wage and hour lawsuits can be filed to correct underpayment and unpaid overtime. If you feel you have been treated unfairly by an employer and that you are owed compensation for time worked, you may be entitled to a recovery. To receive a free consultation from the FLSA attorneys at Morgan and Morgan, simply fill out the free, no-obligation case review form on the right.