Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
CINCINNATI -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Dancing Wasabi Hyde Park, Inc., and Chang Hee Choi, owner, seeking to recover more than $7,600 in unpaid wages plus damages for four kitchen workers. Three of the four workers told investigators they were told to return checks issued for back wages from a previous investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, and they were fired by the sushi restaurant’s owner when they refused.
“This is a particularly egregious case in which vulnerable workers, who have limited English-language proficiency, were intimidated by their employer to kick back their legally earned wages,” said George Victory, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Columbus. “Dancing Wasabi Hyde Park clearly understood its legal obligations but took advantage of workers it believed would not stand up for their rights. What makes this so egregious is that the restaurant violated a compliance agreement with the department, signed in early 2013 as a result of a prior investigation, to pay the back wages and comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
Investigators from the division’s Columbus district office determined that the company and its owner, Chang Hee Choi, violated the FLSA by requiring the workers to return back wage checks issued to them on Feb. 13, 2013. The checks were issued for wages found to be due as a result of a prior investigation in 2012. After the workers were given the checks and signed receipts for them, the owner told the workers to return the checks to him. They were fired when they refused.
The 2013 investigation found that Dancing Wasabi Hyde Park continued to pay the four kitchen workers a fixed salary, partially by check and partially in cash, for work weeks of 65 to 70 hours, which resulted in violations of minimum wage and overtime standards. This violation was also found during the 2012 investigation, which also revealed that servers were required to pay a portion of their tips to kitchen workers, who are not employees who would customarily and regularly receive tips. This resulted in servers’ wages falling below minimum wage for all hours worked in a pay period. Investigators determined that $38,494 in unpaid wages were due to 65 workers for the time period of Oct. 24, 2010, to Oct. 23, 2012.
In January 2013, Dancing Wasabi Hyde Park signed a compliance agreement to repay the wages, install a time clock to properly record all hours worked and to abide by FLSA provisions in the future. The 2013 investigation found the company implemented the time clock but continued to pay workers in violation of wage laws.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees. 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 at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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