Dept. of Labor Obtains Court Order Requiring Asmussen to Pay Back Wages, Damages

Steve Asmussen | Sarah Andrew

The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a court order requiring trainer Steve Asmussen to pay $243,260 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages after its investigation found the employer's pay practices denied 163 grooms and hotwalkers at Churchill Downs and at Keeneland racetrack of overtime wages, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Labor Tuesday.

The recovery is the latest action brought by the department since 2021 against KDE Equine LLC, operating as Asmussen Racing Stables with about 200 horses in five states. This is the fifth time in recent years that investigations by the department's Wage and Hour Division found the company violated federal labor laws.

In its order, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky affirmed the division's finding that the Hall of Famer failed to pay overtime wages to hotwalkers and grooms, instead paying the employees a salary for hours worked. Employees were occasionally paid extra money for doing additional work, but they were not paid overtime.

“Several U.S. Department of Labor investigations have found significant violations related to the way KDE Equine pays its employees,” Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta said in a release from the U.S. Dept. of Labor. “When we determine that an employer has violated the rights of its workers to be paid their full, legally earned wages, the Department of Labor will not hesitate to use litigation to hold employers like this, who knowingly disregarded their overtime obligations, accountable under the law.”

The division determined the employer failed to pay non-exempt employees the additional half-time owed based on their regular rates of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek. Investigators also found KDE failed to keep accurate pay records and allegedly tried to conceal its Fair Labor Standards Act violations by knowingly modifying its records to make it appear the company paid employees by the hour.

In Aug. 2023, the Arlington, Texas-based company entered into a settlement agreement to reimburse grooms and hotwalkers $129,776 and pay $75,223 in penalties to resolve violations of the federal H-2B worker program.

In September 2021, the division recovered $563,800 in back wages and damages for 170 employees and assessed $46,200 in penalties after finding Asmussen failed to pay proper overtime compensation to employees for hours over 40 hours in a workweek, concealed hours worked by employees, directed employees to sign incomplete or false timesheets and did not calculate employees' overtime correctly.

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