JD Home Rentals, a rental company in Fresno, must pay more than $259,000 in damages and overtime wages to 157 workers, the U.S. Department of Labor says.
The Labor Department found that JD Home Rentals did not keep accurate records of hours worked by employees and underpaid them for hours worked past the standard 40-hour work week. The affected employees were mostly maintenance workers.
“The resolution of this case should send a clear message to other employers who may be paying their employees in this manner – violating the law doesn’t pay,” said Cesar Avila, assistant district director for the Sacramento Wage and Hour Division.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees time and a half for working more than 40 hours in a week.
Bryce Hovannisian, operations manager for JD Home Rentals, said the company cooperated with the Department of Labor and issued payments to affected employees between March and July. Hovannisian said a new system has been put in place to ensure that worker time is accurately counted.
“During a regular records review, JD Home Rentals discovered that there were errors in compensation calculations for many maintenance employees and was in the process of compensating employees for the errors when the Department of Labor began its review,” he said.
JD Home Rentals, run by David Hovannisian and Visalia-based J&V Properties Inc., is one of the Valley’s largest property management companies and has been sued multiple times over alleged code violations, including in a 2014 class-action case brought by the statewide tenants’ rights group Tenants Together. The company has denied the allegations.
Sergio Cortes, of the volunteer advocacy group No More Slumlords, said the investigation was the result of a video the group made about current and former JD employees.
“After the video was made live, JD Home Rentals sent No More Slumlords a letter via their attorney demanding that we take down the video,” Cortes said. “We refused.”
In the 10-minute video, published May 19, 2015, the JD employees allege that city employees took bribes from JD leaders to look the other way on substandard housing. They also describe hazardous working conditions and a practice of underpaying.
Last year, the city hired a private law firm to investigate the allegations. On Tuesday, City Attorney Doug Sloan said there was no determination of wrongdoing.
The workers said their supervisors asked them to sign a letter stating that they had been paid for all their time worked, which was untrue. They said many workers refused to sign the letter and were fired.
Hovannisian denied the allegations, saying the video contained blatantly false claims.
Luis Sagrero, who worked for eight years remodeling for JD, said he had filed a complaint with the Department of Labor against the company, but the issue didn’t receive attention until after the No More Slumlords video came out.
“The system shouldn’t work like this,” he said. “The investigators found out that they (JD) were truly robbing us.”
Sagrero was the only worker identified in the video. He said many others remain scared to speak out.