Employers Who Can Use Some Change: A Lesson from a Pile of Pennies


A story has been circulating recently about an auto repair shop that paid their former employee’s final paycheck in pennies. Nobody likes loose change, especially when it’s dumped on your driveway and adorned with your paystub that has an expletive spelled out on it.

In January of 2021, the former employee of the auto repair shop called the state Department of Labor to alert them that he had not received a final paycheck after leaving his position. In March, the owner of the repair shop paid the employee by dumping over 90,000 pennies on the former employee’s driveway. The employee then complained to the Department of Labor and an investigation started.

The repair shop argued that it had not done anything illegal, since pennies are legal tender and there is no rule against paying in US currency (whether foldable or otherwise).  The employee claimed the act was a form of retaliation.


DOL Investigation

Based on the former employee’s complaint, the Department of Labor reviewed whether the penny dumping was retaliation and reviewed payroll records for other employees and eventually filed suit against the company.  The lawsuit is not alleging that the employee wasn’t paid, rather it takes issue in the way he was paid.

The state DOL’s investigation also revealed that auto shop had been failing to pay their employees’ overtime since April of 2019 and that there were not sufficient records kept of employees’ pay rates and work hours.

In defense of their actions, the owner of the auto repair shop said that he would not have paid like this without some motivation for not liking the employee, though he could not say what the employee had done wrong to warrant such petty behavior… and cash.


Our Two Cents

Moral of the story? Take the high road as employers. Had the company just handed this employee a check when he said that he was not paid properly, there likely would not have been a deeper investigation and lawsuit.  The company would be out of the news and allowed to continue to go about their business in peace.  We don’t know whether the employee’s conduct may warrant some snarky response from his previous employer.  But, in the end, it’s the repair shop that will pay every last penny.


The information in this article is not intended to provide legal advice. For professional consultation, please contact David Briggs at dbriggs@sglaw.com at Saalfeld Griggs PC.  503.399.1070. © 2022 Saalfeld Griggs PC