Florida Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton workers were shorted almost $500,000 on pay, feds say

DAVID J. NEAL/dneal@MiamiHerald.com

A Panama City Beach company that provides hotel workers to various chain hotels paid $503,053 in back pay and liquidated damages after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, the agency announced Tuesday.

That money went to 227 workers placed by Touch of Grace Services, an average of $2,216.09 per employee. Touch of Grace provides workers to Beachside Resort, Hilton’s Hampton Inn, Marriott’s Springhill Suites and Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort in Panama City, Florida.

State records say Touch of Grace Services has been registered with the state since 2012. Its lone officer since 2017, manager Mary Alcebar, declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday morning.

Labor said a Wage and Hour Division investigation found that Touch of Grace tried to dodge paying its workers overtime for working more than 40 hours a week by classifying them as independent contractors, then paying them straight time rate for all hours worked. This violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“Federal labor law includes strict criteria for classifying workers as independent contractors. Misclassified workers are illegally denied their full pay, benefits and legal protections,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Wildalí De Jesús. “We encourage employers to use the resources the Wage and Hour Division offers to understand proper pay practices and avoid the costly consequences of violations.”

The Wage and Hour complaint section of Labor’s website contains information on how to file a complaint if you believe your employer has violated FLSA. Miami’s Wage and Hour Division office can be reached at 305-598-6607. The national helpline is 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

No matter the immigration or citizenship status of workers, they can speak with the department, which says it can handle calls in more than 200 languages.