Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
OMAHA, Neb. -- The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking back wages and damages for workers of three restaurant companies in Nebraska based on investigations by its Wage and Hour Division. Lawsuits filed by the department in federal court allege violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions by the Season’s Buffet restaurant in Omaha and four China Buffet restaurants in Omaha, Bellevue and Lincoln. A separate investigation of HM Enterprises LLC, which operates two Omaha restaurants, resulted in the company agreeing to pay back wages without litigation.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for any employer not to pay workers their rightfully earned wages. These are clear cases of restaurant owners violating federal labor standards,” said Michael Kravitz, acting regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Midwest. “The Labor Department is committed to seeing that these vulnerable workers receive their proper pay.”
The suit filed against Zhang Garden Inc., which operates as Season’s Buffet, alleges that the company owes 15 kitchen staff and servers back wages totaling $132,570 plus an equal amount in liquidated damages. The investigation determined that employees were paid in cash for all hours worked, which in some cases was less than the hourly federal minimum wage rate, and that they did not receive any additional compensation for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. Additionally, the suit alleges that the restaurant did not keep proper records.
Zhang Garden Inc. also was assessed a civil money penalty of $5,775 for willfully violating the FLSA, which it has paid. The company was investigated by the Wage and Hour Division in 2008 and found to be in violation of the FLSA’s record-keeping and overtime requirements.
The suit filed against Hong’s Inc., which operates as China Buffet, alleges that minimum and overtime back wages plus interest are owed to a significant number of kitchen staff and servers at its four Omaha-area establishments. The final amount and number of employees owed will be determined by the courts. The investigation found that employees were paid a straight salary for all hours worked and did not receive any additional compensation for overtime hours, and that the company failed to maintain accurate payroll records.
The company has been assessed $19,525 in civil money penalties due to repeated violations of the FLSA, and has filed an exception to the assessment. It was investigated by the Wage and Hour Division in 2007 and found to be in violation of the FLSA’s record-keeping and overtime requirements. The company repaid nearly $100,000 in back wages as a result of that investigation.
Both cases are being litigated by the department’s regional solicitor in Kansas City, Mo.
A separate investigation that resulted in the entry of a consent judgment determined that HM Enterprises LLC, which operates Hiro West and Hiro 88 in Omaha, owed 19 kitchen staff $26,272 in minimum back wages and 22 kitchen staff $74,943 in overtime back wages at the two restaurants. The investigation found that employees were paid a straight salary that did not always yield the minimum wage for all hours worked and were not provided with additional compensation for hours worked over 40 in a week. Additionally, the company failed to maintain accurate payroll records. HM Enterprises has agreed to come into compliance with the FLSA and is making restitution to the workers.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Additionally, the law requires employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records, and prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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