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Sunnyvale Green Energy Firm Fined For Underpaying Workers From Mexico

SUNNYVALE (CBS SF) - Bloom Energy Corp. has been ordered by a U.S. District Court Judge to pay $31,922 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to employees from Mexico after the company was found to have willfully violated the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Bloom, a manufacturer of solid oxide fuel cells, has been paying 14 workers brought to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico less than $3 per hour for refurbishing work performed at the company headquarters in Sunnyvale.

The Department of Labor told KPIX 5 that the employees were skilled workers and they were in the United States on visitors' visas, which does not allow them to work.

According to a press release from the Labor Department, Bloom Energy brought the workers in from Mexico to refurbish power generators alongside U.S. workers. Federal investigators found that the workers were paid in Mexican pesos the equivalent of $2.66 per hour. The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked. California minimum wage is $8 per hour.

"It is appalling that this was happening right in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest per capita areas in the U.S.," said Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the West.

The Department of Labor has requested that Bloom not ship the goods produced in violation until the violations were resolved, according to the press release. Bloom has paid the back wages and has agreed to comply in the future with all FLSA requirements.

As of Monday evening, Bloom energy has not responded to KPIX 5's request for comment.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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