INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Department of Labor has cited an Indianapolis-based security company for violating federal wage laws following a WRTV Investigation that raised questions about their business practices.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday it found Protection Plus failed to pay guards overtime at time and one-half their regular rate of pay for hours over 40 in a work week.
Protection Plus provides part-time employment to more than 300 civilian security guards and police officers looking to make some extra money.
The Indianapolis firm employs security guards and off-duty police officers at well-known agencies and businesses like Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.
This is the third time in five years federal investigators have found Protection Plus violated federal wage laws.
In this third and latest action, the U.S. Department of Labor assessed Protection Plus Inc. $27,597 in civil money penalties for “repeat and willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
The third federal investigation found 31 security professionals are owed $28,334 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages, according to the Indiana Department of Labor.
“Protection Plus continues to defy federal overtime wage laws, despite being found in violation in both 2018 and 2022 for the same practice. Abiding by federal wage laws in not optional,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Aaron Loomis in Indianapolis. “The Department of Labor will continue to hold this company and its owner, Raymond Stanley, accountable for paying their workers the wages they have rightfully earned.”
The security company employs security guards and off-duty police officers at well-known agencies and businesses like Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.
WRTV Investigates contacted an attorney for Protection Plus on Wednesday and he provided this response:
PPI entered into a Consent Judgment of June 7, 2022, for alleged wage payment violations for the period, May 13, 2018 through January 7, 2021. This was the circumstances you spoke to Marie and Billy about. You will recall that the overtime issue was not PPI completely failing to pay overtime at all (time and a half rate for work over 40 hours) but an issue with the rate of pay used to calculate the overtime when certain employees performed different jobs with different rates. After the Consent Judgment, PPI continued to pay overtime for employees working over 40 hours per week as they had been doing all along, and chose to pay all overtime at the highest hourly rate the employee worked rather than calculating a blended rate to ensure there would be no issues going forward.
After the Consent Judgment was entered on June 7, 2022, the assigned DOL Investigator performed a supplemental investigation for the time period January 10, 2021, through November 18, 2022. This period of time was an eleven (11) month period after the end of the initial investigation period. Part of this 11-month time period was for a period before the Consent Judgment of June 7, 2022, and part of the period was after the Consent Judgment of June 7, 2022.
In July, 2023, the assigned investigator met with PPI and the undersigned to discuss his conclusions and post-order monitoring. During the July 13, 2023, closing conference, the DOL investigator advised that his post-order monitoring and records review demonstrated PPI had been in strict compliance with the FLSA since the entry of the June 22, 2022, Consent Judgment order. Indeed, PPI has been in strict compliance with the terms of the Consent Judgment since its entry and through today.
For the period of time before the Consent Judgment, some limited additional issues were found for thirty-one (31) employees for a total of $14,167.23 in additional wages owed. (The $28,334 amount provided by DOL includes an additional $14,167.23 the employees receive as liquidated damages). These violations preceded the June 7, 2022, Consent Decree and were the for the same issues as was the subject of the initial investigation and were corrected after the Consent Judgment.
In the Consent Judgment, PPI “had given [its] assurance of full future compliance with all the provisions of the [FLSA] Act” and PPI has fully complied with the Act since that time as determined by the supplemental investigation. PPI has been in compliance with the FLSA since the entry of the Consent Judgment as determined by the DOL investigator and will continue to be in compliance.
I hope this explains this issue. This is not a new issue where PPI had violated the Consent Judgment or the agreement with the DOL. The additional violations were found in the supplemental investigation but they were for issues prior to the Consent Judgment during which time PPI had unintentionally not calculated the overtime rates in compliance with the FLSA. PPI has complied completely with the FLSA since the entry of the Consent Judgment and will continue to do so going forward.
WRTV Investigates reported in August 2023 that the City of Indianapolis suspended Protection Plus from doing work for the city for six months.
The city found Protection Plus failed to disclose to the city that a 2022 federal investigation found Protection Plus violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
WRTV first raised questions about Protection Plus in August 2022 after the U.S. Department of Labor announced the company had to pay $440,000 in back wages, damages and penalties.
In August 2023, Protection Plus’ leadership, Operations Director Billy Ingles and President Marie Stanley, sat down with WRTV Investigates to explain what happened and what the company is doing to make sure workers are accurately paid.
"We haven't cheated any of our employees,” said Bill Ingles, Operations Director at Protection Plus in 2023. “This wasn’t an issue of fraud or anything. This was simply a miscalculation of an overtime rate.”
WRTV Investigates found Protection Plus also faced scrutiny from the federal government back in 2018.
In 2018, Protection Plus paid 158 workers $98,949 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages to 158 employees.
They also paid $25,000 in civil money penalty in the 2018 case for the willful nature of their violations, according to the DOL.
“The company did not change their pay practices after our 2018 investigation and did not pay employees the wages they were due,” Wage and Hour District Director Patricia Lewis in Indianapolis explained in 2022. “Employers must understand these failures hurt workers and their families by denying them the wages they count on to meet their needs.”
WRTV: “How did this happen? Two federal investigations?”
Ingles: “This is the emotional part for us, because it's truly an honest mistake. The calculation of overtime. We didn’t fail to pay any of our employees overtime. This was simply a miscalculation of the overtime rate."
Ingles’ name is also listed in the 2022 federal investigation as a Protection Plus employee owed money.
He received $2,317 in back wages and damages, according to the company’s attorney.
“If I felt I was cheated in any way shape or form, I wouldn't be sitting with you for this interview today,” said Ingles.
WRTV: “What protocols do you have in place to make sure this doesn't happen again?”
Ingles: “We've streamlined our pay rates. Therefore, all of our employees now make the same rate regardless of what job or what location they're working at. It's just one base rate now."
WRTV: “Are you confident this won’t happen again?”
Marie Stanley: “Yes, 100 percent. This is very personal. We always strive to be one of the best companies we can be. We’re a woman owned company and we’re very proud of that. To have something like this, it’s been very hard. It was unintentional.”
WRTV: “Can you understand why it might be difficult for some not to trust your business?”
Stanley: “It’s just human nature, when people hear something negative, then yeah, they’re going to be concerned. Our hopes that since we have business so long and we are part of the community, we have proven we are a solid company.”
But not everyone agrees Protection Plus is doing its best to pay workers.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, a union that represents security officers in Indianapolis, has also raised concerns about Protection Plus.
"I think Indianapolis working families deserve better,” said Genie Kastrup, president of SEIU Local 1.
SEIU Local 1 does not represent Protection Plus. Protection Plus is not unionized.
"The workers should not have to worry, am i being paid correctly for my overtime? " asked Kastrup in 2023. “Clearly they've had questionable business practices. They've been found guilty not once but twice."
Some agencies have stopped using Protection Plus, including the Marion County Public Health Department, which started using in-house security after our story aired in 2022.
“Since late 2022, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County has been in the process of bringing all security services in-house,” said Curt Brantingham, spokesperson for the health department. “We do not currently have any Protection Plus personnel providing security services.”
The City of Indianapolis’ six-month suspension of Protection Plus began on May 5 and ended on November 5, records show.
"We are calling on the city to make it more permanent,” said Kastrup.
SEIU Local 1 is pushing the Capital Improvement Board (CIB), which operates Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center, to stop using Protection Plus.
The CIB is partially funded by tax revenues including hotel/motel tax, food and beverage tax, and auto rental tax.
"Our ask to the board is to terminate the contract and hire a responsible contractor based on the fact that it is receiving public money,” said Kastrup.
WRTV Investigates reached out to the Capital Improvement Board, but the CIB declined our request for an on camera interview.
“We are reviewing PPI's performance under our existing agreement to ensure they are complying with its terms,” said Monica Braise, Public Information & Marketing Manager for the Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium, in an email to WRTV in August 2023.