Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint in federal court seeking back wages for 54 servers and chefs of three Sushi Rock restaurants in Ohio. An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division determined that the employees are owed more than $100,000 due to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements.
Investigators found that the three restaurants, which are located in Cleveland, Columbus and Beachwood, failed to adjust the wages of servers, who are considered tipped workers under the FLSA, when these employees did not earn enough in tips alone to meet the hourly minimum wage requirement. The restaurants also incorrectly classified sushi chefs as professional employees, and because of this designation, the chefs were not paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked or overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a week. Additionally, Sushi Rock did not maintain proper records of hours worked by the chefs or the amount of tips earned by the servers.
"Businesses that employ tipped employees are required to ensure that those employees – like all others – receive at least the minimum wage," said George Victory, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Columbus District Office, which conducted the investigation. "The Wage and Hour Division is committed to combating systemic violations found in the restaurant industry, and to educating employers about the wage laws for which they are accountable."
The final amount of back wages to be restored will be determined by the court. The lawsuit also seeks an equal amount in liquidated damages for the employees.
The Sushi Rock restaurants are operated jointly by Suroc Inc., Surocshaker Inc. and Suroclumbus LLC, and co-owned by John Kostoglou, George Papandreas and Thomas Culkar. Along with Rossi Penney, director of operations for the chain, these companies and individuals are all defendants in the case.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. In accordance with the FLSA, an employer of a tipped employee is required to pay no less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages provided that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's direct wages does not equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Additionally, accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment must be maintained.
For more information about the FLSA, including youth employment regulations, 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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