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We’ve all heard stories about people getting petty and paying someone a large amount of pennies. Folks usually tell these stories urban legend style and the tales don’t amount to much else. But one of the more famous examples of this story happened to a car mechanic whose employer paid him $915 in oily pennies as a petty final gesture. And that little stunt is now going to cost the shifty auto shop nearly $40k in back pay. 

A mechanic shop with cars on lifts and people working.
Mechanic shop | Getty Images

Can you pay someone in pennies?

Sure, pennies are legal tender. And, yes, you can attempt to buy something with pennies, but that doesn’t mean it will work out. As for AOK Walker Luxury Autoworks, who paid a mechanic’s last check in 91,500 pennies, this stunt isn’t likely to happen again. The Department of Labor made sure of that. 

“The court has sent a clear message to employers such as Miles Walker who subject employees to unfair wage practices and outright intimidation and retaliation,” said Tremelle Howard, Department of Labor regional solicitor. “Employers who mistakenly believe they can willfully violate labor laws at the expense of employees and competitors must understand that we will do everything within our rights to bring them to justice.”

Mechanic wins oily pennies dispute

a pile of pennies
Pennies | Getty Images

As seen on The Guardian’s YouTube Channel (embed below), Andreas Flaten, an employee of AOK Walker Luxury Autoworks, received his final paycheck in a pile of 91,500 oily pennies. The shop left the change in his driveway with a note reading “F#*& you” after he resigned due to a dispute over the employee having to attend to childcare duties. Flaten claims the schedule surrounding the childcare arrangements was agreed to by both parties before Flaten began working for Walker. 

If the aggressive note and pile of oily pennies weren’t enough, A OK Walker Luxury Autoworks also posted defamatory statements about Flaten on the company’s website, says the Department of Labor. 

However, more recent developments show that aside from the aggressive and petty acts against Flaten, the Department of Labor also determined that the shop also violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by refusing to pay employees overtime wages. Despite being legally required to increase employee pay rates once in overtime, the shop continued to pay its same flat rate. 

How many pennies does the shop need now?

Suppose the shop owner, Miles Walker, wanted to continue his petty ways. In that case, he’d need a lot more pennies to pay the court-ordered ruling to pay the employees $39,934 in back pay for the unpaid overtime and that same amount again for damages to nine other workers. 

Rounding up, that would mean Walker would need roughly 8,000,000 pennies to satisfy the court’s decision. Not only does Walker have to pay, but also ordered the shop’s website to remove all photos or any other reference to Flaten. It may not legally reference him again. However, it must post the court’s ruling in the shop, and clearly-stated employee rights must be visibly displayed. 


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