East Penn 'surprised' by US Department of Labor's lawsuit

Company to 'vigorously defend' against allegations

RICHMOND TWP., Pa. - One of Berks County's largest employers is fighting back against the federal government's allegations that it failed to pay its workers the money they were owed.

East Penn Manufacturing released a statement Thursday in response to a lawsuit announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging unpaid wages for hours worked by the company's 7,000 employees.

The Richmond Township-based battery maker said it has a long history of providing competitive wages and benefits for its employees and their families.

"East Penn believes that the company has complied with the federal laws, and were surprised when the Labor Department filed its lawsuit," the company said in its statement.

East Penn said the Labor Department filed its lawsuit and announced it to the media without notifying the company or providing it with a copy of the suit.

According to U.S. labor officials, an investigation found East Penn violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by not paying its workers for the time they spent dressing in protective clothing prior to their shift, nor for the time spent showering after their shift, according to U.S. labor officials. Instead, they said the company paid its employees only for their scheduled hours, not for what their time-clock entries showed.

"East Penn believes the claims are without merit and intends to vigorously defend the department's allegations," the company added. "While the company would like to comment more on the substance of the Department's charges and the way the Department has treated East Penn, because this is now in litigation, the company is currently not in a position to comment."

The Department of Labor said it plans to seek back wages and damages for 6,900 employees.

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