Five former employees who landscaped for H&O Investments in Louisiana and Mississippi filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against the company, its owner, its lawyer and other affiliates claiming they were not receiving the overtime pay due to them.
The workers claim in the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, that owner David C. Mahler, company attorney Roy Maughan Jr., and other H&O owners and operators avoided making the overtime payments by misclassifying the workers as contractors and not employees, the lawsuit says.
The suit alleges that the employees who brought the suit worked between 60 and 80 hours per week for the company but were not properly compensated for the extra time worked. The employees traveled between job sites, maintained equipment, cleaned the shop and performed other activities while on the job.
The workers, who all live in Orleans Parish, write in the complaint that Mahler violated the federal tax code by issuing the employees 1099 forms instead of W2s to report their wages.
Juan Molina, Mauricio Hernandez, Constantino Avila, Gabriel Gutierrez and Wilson Hernandez all worked for H&O Lawn 360, a company that primarily does business with H&O’s Baton Rouge office, the suit says. Molina and Wilson Hernandez started working with the company in 2009.
They hope to recover unpaid overtime compensation owed to them and others working at H&O.
The suit identifies two classes of workers, one class of workers who had been employed since January 2012 and the other class since January 2009.
The lawsuit was filed days before Mahler’s Lamborghini was found burned to the ground Tuesday at the company Baton Rouge office at 17245 Opportunity Ave.
The Lamborghini, worth in excess of $200,000, was parked in the H&O parking lot on Opportunity Avenue when a captain noticed the glow from the fire. A spokesman with the St. George Fire Department said it’s likely investigators will never know how the fire started, noting that much of the evidence was destroyed along with the car.
Wednesday, the Fire Department asked the state Fire Marshal’s Office to assist, Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning Jr. said.
Browning said the Fire Marshal’s Office is devoting a significant amount of resources to the case.
“We’ve assigned a number of our people to work with the St. George Fire Department to determine cause of that fire,” Browning said. “At this point, it’s a very active investigation. We have nothing we can publicly say.”
Mahler, owner of the company, pulled out of a New Orleans contract last week to remove Confederate monuments after he said he received death threats.
Maughan, the company attorney, said the New Orleans office of the FBI continues to look into the threats he and his client initially filed with the city of New Orleans.
FBI spokesman Craig Betbeze had no comment Thursday afternoon.
Follow Danielle Maddox Kinchen on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.
Editor's Note: This story was changed on Jan. 22, 2016, to correct the spelling of Craig Betbeze's name.