U.S. Labor Department sues horse trainer Asmussen, claims OT vio - WDRB 41 Louisville News

U.S. Labor Department sues horse trainer Asmussen, claims OT violations at Churchill Downs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The U.S. Department of Labor has sued thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen, alleging he and his stable are breaking federal labor law by failing to pay proper overtime to 100 workers at Churchill Downs.

The lawsuit, filed June 25 in U.S. District Court in Louisville, claims Asmussen and KDE Equine LLC have “willfully and repeatedly” violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by having hot walkers and grooms work more than 40 hours per week without paying them wages at least 1 ½ times higher than their base pay.

The alleged violations have been occurring since at least June 2012.

Asmussen and his stable failed to follow federal labor regulations by not keeping “adequate and accurate” records of workers and how long they worked, including overtime pay, according to the lawsuit.

The government also alleges that two of Asmussen's workers were incorrectly treated as exempt from overtime.

Asmussen attorney Clark Brewster of Tulsa, Okla., said Monday that he doesn't believe any violations occurred. Prior to the lawsuit being filed, Brewster said he unsuccessfully asked Labor Department investigators to explain their findings and "we would be very, very responsible in trying to correct them."

Brewster said the lawsuit has "systemic flaws," including listing some employees who didn't work in Kentucky. In addition, he said, the number of hot walkers and grooms who allegedly weren't paid proper overtime is "in excess" of the amount needed to staff Asmussen's operations at Churchill Downs.

"I don't think it's based upon merit," Brewster said of the lawsuit. "I don't think it's based upon facts. It appears to be a government shakedown."

The Labor Department is seeking to have Asmussen pay three years of back wages to the 100 workers and any other employees found to be owed money, in addition to unspecified damages.

Asmussen, whose horses have won more than 7,000 races, has the most wins among active trainers, according to Equibase. Twice he has received the Eclipse award for outstanding trainer.

Since January 2013, Asmussen has been under a federal court order in New York requiring him, among other things, to pay his employees proper overtime, according to court documents. He and his company had agreed to make payments totaling $29,096 to employees for work done before July 21, 2012 in New York.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission cleared Asmussen of animal cruelty allegations brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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