Feds sue Casper radio station owner over employee pay

2012-11-21T06:00:00Z 2013-07-17T21:01:07Z Feds sue Casper radio station owner over employee payBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The U.S. Department of Labor sued the owner of five Casper radio stations this week, alleging Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting improperly paid some employees.

The suit claims workers at Mt. Rushmore received less than federal minimum wage and weren’t paid overtime when they worked more than 40 hours a week. The allegations date as far back as August 2008, according to the complaint.

Federal authorities also accuse the company of failing to keep adequate records related to employee work hours.

Mt. Rushmore President Jan Charles Gray disputed the allegations in a statement emailed to the Star-Tribune.

“The filing is bogus and unfortunate,” said Gray, who’s named in the lawsuit. “The accusations themselves are not accurate, [coming] from disgruntled former employees, some of whom are convicted felons.”

Labor Department attorney Beau Ellis did not respond Tuesday to a message seeking comment.

Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting is licensed to operate four FM stations in Casper: KMLD 94.5, KASS 106.9, KQLT 103.7 and KHOC 102.5. It also owns KVOC-AM 1230 in Casper, along with stations in Rawlins and in South Dakota.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for Wyoming, accuses the company of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. It seeks unpaid wages and damages equal to the compensation owed to the workers, as well as an order preventing the company from further delaying payment of minimum wage and overtime.

Six former employees are listed in the suit. Their tenure at Mt. Rushmore varied considerably. One man worked at the company for only two weeks. Another was employed for three years.

The lawsuit does not indicate how much money they were allegedly shorted.

Gray maintains that even if the allegations were accurate, exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act prevent the rules from applying to his company.

“This is an unconstitutional action by the Department of Labor to target small business,” he said.

The lawsuit is only the latest battle between Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting and the federal government. In July, the Federal Communications Commission announced it was fining the company $68,000 for violations stemming from the use of unlicensed radio transmitter links. The links send audio from a studio to an off-site transmitter, where it can be rebroadcast.

The FCC also issued a $21,500 fine in May after an inspection found Mt. Rushmore wasn’t staffing its AM and FM stations in Hot Springs, S.D. and used an unauthorized antenna at the FM station.

The commission also fined the company in 2008, 2002 and 1998.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. theWest
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    theWest - November 22, 2012 1:46 pm
    This is so wrong--the statue of limitations on the supposed violations is only 2 years.
  2. theWest
    Report Abuse
    theWest - November 22, 2012 11:31 am
    Also, your previous comment is wrong as well. The key exemption in question is the sales exemption. I really think it would help to read the law in question.

    While you are probably still celebrating Obama's victory earlier this month and his attempt at activist government to not follow Congress, we in Wyoming still believe in federalism. If the law says the business is exempt to protect small business, then it's exempt from federal jurisdiction.
  3. theWest
    Report Abuse
    theWest - November 22, 2012 11:29 am
    Wrong once again. If you look at the complaint, this began during the Obama administration and is being brought by Hilda Solis' Department of Labor. They are saying the exemption does not apply because the business uses telephones. That's absurd!!
  4. RFBurns
    Report Abuse
    RFBurns - November 22, 2012 10:28 am
    Another bit of fairness...all of this began long before Obama's administration.

    So be fair and go look in the mirror and find your problem child.

  5. Lannie
    Report Abuse
    Lannie - November 21, 2012 6:12 pm
    No, what I think he was saying regarding Constitutional rights is that a federal agency can't say that an exemption written into the Wage and Hour Law doesn't apply simply because a business uses telephones. The exemption is in the law!!

    Also, on your profile it says that you manage 2 radio stations in Casper--maybe that's why you have such a beef with a competitor.
  6. RFBurns
    Report Abuse
    RFBurns - November 21, 2012 4:01 pm
    If exemption is given to this type of business, which is media, then the workers at Casper Star Tribune and all the other media businesses like TV and other radio stations can get away with it also right?

    What business these days never uses a telephone to conduct business?

    Get real!!
  7. RFBurns
    Report Abuse
    RFBurns - November 21, 2012 3:58 pm
    There was never any convicted felons that worked at Mt. Rushmore here in Casper.

    When the process begins to uncover the details, your comments here will be remembered.
  8. RFBurns
    Report Abuse
    RFBurns - November 21, 2012 3:57 pm
    As a matter of fact Lannie..I am a CPA. And having worked there and seen the books, I can attest that there is a lot more to this whole thing that you are not aware of.

    You talk about constitutional rights. Are you saying that workers have no constitutional rights and only crooked businesses do?

    Go back to grade school and this time pay attention.
  9. john2487
    Report Abuse
    john2487 - November 21, 2012 2:05 pm
    That's why it is too bad that the Casper Star Tribune didn't talk about the exemption, which is clearly written in the Wage and Hour Law. They didn't give the context needed to understand what is the nature of the exemption and the activist decision of the Obama-led executive branch to not follow the Congress' wishes which were communicated through the law.

    It's going to take citizens who really care about this country to bring it back, and this activist approach by the federal government is unacceptable. I personally think that he should let the Obama-led executive branch pressure him, as I'm sure they're trying to do right now (as indicated by the filing and this story).
  10. theWest
    Report Abuse
    theWest - November 21, 2012 12:53 pm
    There is an exemption in federal law for these types of businesses, which Hilda Solis' Labor Department says doesn't apply when a business is using a telephone. That is outrageous--this shows the consequences of placing the Obama administration in charge of the federal government's executive agencies.
  11. Lannie
    Report Abuse
    Lannie - November 21, 2012 11:48 am
    Poncho, I think you're misunderstanding the point of the comment--the point is that the fact that they are convinced felons puts the accuracy of their claims into question.
  12. Poncho
    Report Abuse
    Poncho - November 21, 2012 11:25 am
    “The filing is bogus and unfortunate,” said Gray, who’s named in the lawsuit. “The accusations themselves are not accurate, [coming] from disgruntled former employees, some of whom are convicted felons.”

    Felons are not allowed to be paid fairly under the law?
  13. Lannie
    Report Abuse
    Lannie - November 21, 2012 10:13 am
    I agree with "I believe in fairness." The Obama administration is out of control in targeting small business--no wonder unemployment is so high.

    Regarding the last comment, how on earth would you know anything about the station accounts--are you an accountant? The slander that is allowed on these boards is outrageous--why don't we let the legal system play out for once and fight for our constitutional rights.
  14. I believe in fairness
    Report Abuse
    I believe in fairness - November 21, 2012 9:08 am
    This is another example of the Casper Star Tribune continuing to target certain individuals and small businesses in the community. This is an action taken by Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis and the ridiculously activist federal government we have, and that context needs to be given in the article.

    It is clear in the Wage and Hour Law passed by the Congress that their claims do not even apply to a business like this that is under certain gross sales levels. They left out so much of the story here of continued executive branch abuse, like how the federal government has claimed the exemption does not apply for any business that uses telephones. This is the research that needs to be done before running a story like this. I personally think that Interstate Commerce is at stake here----this is a chance in the courts for the people to challenge continued federal statutory abuse by government agencies. The community needs to stand up to these attempts at character assassination just to fill the pages of the paper.
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