I often wonder what happened in old stories, so I looked for the resolution of one was published two years ago last week. I’m a pretty decent researcher, but all I could find is the original news stories, and occasionally a comment about the story. So I dug deeper.
Let’s start with that story, from the 4 April 2021 issue:
An Ever Widening Platform
Andreas Flaten of Fayetteville, Ga., gave his boss two weeks’ notice that he was quitting A-OK Walker Luxury Autoworks in Peachtree City due to the company’s “toxic work environment.” On his last day he dropped off his uniforms — washed. But the owner didn’t pay him then, and didn’t pay him in January as promised, Flaten said. After months he told Walker he was going to call a lawyer over his missing $915, and very quickly the money was dropped off — a pile of pennies in Flaten’s driveway. They had oil dumped over them to make them hard to cash in, and a note on top reading “F–k you.” A reporter asked Miles Walker for his side of the story. “I don’t know if I did that or not,” Walker claimed. “I don’t really remember.” Wait, really? “It doesn’t matter, he got paid. That’s all that matters. He’s a f—–g weenie for even bringing it up.” Why’s that? “Because you guys give him a platform,” he said. “You guys are what’s wrong with the world. Get the f— off my property.” Coin recycler Coinstar not only picked up the pennies, they made a donation to two charities of Flaten’s choice. (RC/WGCL Atlanta, AP) …Walker seems a little unclear about what’s wrong with the world.
There was an update in the news that was good enough to make it into a follow-up story, in the 9 January 2022 issue:
A Penny Saved
In April, Miles Walker, owner of A-OK Walker Luxury Autoworks in Peachtree City, Ga., castigated an employee who quit due to the company’s “toxic work environment,” because the man wanted to get his final pay, $915. Walker sent him the money: 91,515 pennies soaked in oil, in the middle of his driveway. At the end of the year, the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit in federal court against Walker and his company, saying he retaliated against the employee, Andreas Flaten, in how he was paid and in postings on the company web site. (Example, in defending the penny caper: “Let us just say that maybe he stole? Maybe he killed a dog? Maybe he killed a cat? Maybe he was lazy? Maybe he was a butcher? Maybe he liked self-gratifying himself in clients’ cars? Whatever you want to think is your prerogative.”) The company also owes employees tens of thousands in back wages and unpaid overtime, the DOL says. Flaten says he declined to sue for himself. “I’m over it, but I’m definitely happy to see that justice is being served,” he said. (Washington Post, The Hill) …Maybe Walker is a jerk? A cheat? A bastard? Whatever you want to think is your prerogative.
When I Checked in April 2023, amazingly enough I found the guy is still in business! Even though Yelp has removed 81 bad reviews from people who were reacting to the news stories rather than actual experience with having their car serviced at the shop, their average review is still …one star. Not a huge surprise, I guess.
Plus, I noticed this on their web site: “And yes we accept pennies as payment! They are cash! 10%processing fees do apply.” (Quoted verbatim, including the missing space.) That saves him from being labeled a hypocrite, I suppose, but 10% penalty? Did he overpay his employee by 10% when he paid in pennies? (I doubt it. Hypocrite!)
But that’s where the trail ended. So last week I wrote to one of the press contacts at the U.S. Dept. of Labor to say I was doing a follow-up on the story, and what is the status? The press release didn’t name the court where the suit was filed, so I asked about that, too, and what the case number is. They replied within hours saying they’d find out and get back to me, and this morning they did. Now that’s good efficiency!
Second Update: Slapped But Good
At first, the second update wasn’t a lot, but at least it’s gratifying: “The parties are still in litigation, so there is nothing more to report currently,” the DOL contact replied after checking status, and answered my question: “The case number is 3:21-cv-00220-TCB. It is in the [U.S. District Court for the] Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division.”
Thanks to getting the case citation, I was able to get a copy of the lawsuit, which is available for download here:
After two more months the other shoe dropped. It was enough that it led to a third story in True — two stories on one obliviot is unusual, three is pretty darned rare indeed. From the 25 June 2023 issue:
When we last heard from Miles Walker, the owner of A-OK Walker Luxury Autoworks in Peachtree City, Ga., who grudgingly paid employee Andreas Flaten his final wages by dumping 91,515 oiled pennies in Flaten’s driveway, the U.S. Department of Labor had filed a federal lawsuit against him, charging retaliation. (See “An Ever Widening Platform” in This is True for 4 April 2021 and “A Penny Saved” from 9 January 2022.) Not surprisingly, Walker lost in court, and has been ordered to pay nine former employees $39,934 in back wages and damages. Flaten will receive $8,690 of that amount. In addition, Walker was ordered to remove any photographs and references to Flaten and other current or former employees on his web site, and to never post any more there “or any other website or social media site.” Perhaps even better, Walker must post the judgment “immediately in all conspicuous places in its facility where employee notices are usually posted,” and “Conspicuously display a division fact sheet on prohibiting retaliation under the [Fair Labor Standards Act].” (RC/Macon Telegraph, WAGA Atlanta) …OK, taking bets: NOW does Walker get it?
If you want to read the entire case conclusion, here’s the filing in reasonably understandable English:
That’s simply …unlikely, no matter what the subject. Something to think about, eh? I wonder if Walker has? I just checked again: his Yelp review average is still one star.
The sad part: from oily penny delivery to finally getting full court agreement that they were stiffed on a lot of wages, the employees had to wait more than two years. The wheels of justice grind slowly.
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