Law360 (May 7, 2020, 6:35 PM EDT) -- A Florida air conditioning technician was unlawfully fired after he complained about overtime violations and a lack of protections for workers against contracting COVID-19, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Orlando.
Robert Macke said he worked as a service technician at HT Airsystems of Florida LLC from April 2018 until several weeks ago, when he was fired in retaliation for complaining about not being properly paid for overtime and for raising concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
"As plaintiff was expected to constantly travel to public places, including hospitals, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that PPE was warranted, but was not provided," Macke said.
The air conditioning technician said he "regularly" worked more than 40 hours a week for HT Airsystems, but was wrongly classified as a salaried employee and was thus not paid the required time and a half on top of his normal pay for the hours worked beyond 40.
Macke said that HT Airsystems decided earlier this year to change his pay method to an hourly one, and that he then asked questions about the switch and about overtime pay. He also complained about the lack of PPE for workers sent into the field, he said.
HT Airsystems fired Macke about three weeks after that email, he said, noting the "extremely close temporal proximity/nexus between plaintiff asserting his objections to defendant's illegal pay practices and, and his termination."
Macke is alleging violations of overtime and whistleblower protections in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as unlawful retaliation in violation of Florida state law. He seeks unspecified damages plus costs and attorney fees.
Neither side responded on Thursday to requests for comment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week that a broad liability shield will be a top Republican priority for the next COVID-19 relief bill, arguing that companies need protection from lawsuits as they reopen and try to revive the moribund economy.
But a majority of Americans are against giving reopened businesses blanket civil immunity for COVID-19 infections suffered by workers and consumers, according to a survey commissioned by a plaintiffs attorney group published Wednesday.
Macke is represented by Noah E. Storch and Alexander Thomas Harne of Richard Celler Legal PA.
Counsel information for HT Airsystems wasn't immediately available on Thursday.
The case is Robert Macke v. HT Airsystems of Florida LLC, case number 6:20-cv-00787, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
--Additional reporting by Andrew Kragie and Y. Peter Kang. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.
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