Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
MINNEAPOLIS -- The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered a total of $226,081 in back wages due to 131 employees of two Minnesota companies with common ownership, Star Ocean Foods Inc. and Sun Foods Inc., following an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division. Investigators found that employees were denied the minimum wage and overtime pay, and that the grocery chain did not keep adequate records in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
"Low-wage grocery workers are among the most vulnerable," said Theresa Walls, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Minneapolis District Office, which conducted the investigation. "We will continue investigating and educating employers in the grocery industry to protect the rights of those workers. Other employers should take note and ensure that they are paying employees in compliance with federal labor law."
Investigators found that the Star Ocean Foods distribution center in St. Paul and two Sun Foods grocery stores in St. Paul and Brooklyn Center failed to pay workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour following the national increase that became effective on July 24, 2009. Minimum wage violations also resulted from illegal deductions taken from workers' pay to cover cash register shortages.
Additionally, investigators found that many workers were incorrectly classified by the employer as exempt from overtime, and consequently did not receive overtime pay. Some workers who were correctly classified were paid overtime only after they worked more than 80 hours in a two-week period, instead of for hours worked beyond 40 in one week as required. Finally, the companies failed to maintain proper records of hours worked by nonexempt employees and of all deductions from employees' pay.
All back wages owed have been paid, and the company has implemented procedures to ensure future compliance with the FLSA.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked, as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked over 40 per week. Additionally, accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment must be maintained.
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 at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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