Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has announced the launch of an enforcement initiative focusing on the restaurant industry in Hillsborough County, the most populous county in the greater Tampa Bay area. The reason for this initiative is that the division has found significant and systemic violations of the minimum wage, overtime and child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act at area restaurants.
From 2006 to 2010, the division’s Tampa office conducted 1,166 investigations of restaurants, recovering more than $2.8 million in minimum wage and overtime back wages for 3,873 workers who had been denied fair compensation for all hours of their work, in violation of the FLSA. These investigations also resulted in the assessment of approximately $165,900 in civil money penalties for child labor and other violations of the act.
“The restaurant industry employs some of our country’s lowest-paid workers who, especially during hard economic times, are vulnerable to exploitation,” said James Schmidt, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Tampa. “Investigators will be making unannounced visits to full-service restaurants in Hillsborough County to remedy widespread labor violations, and ensure that law-abiding employers who pay their workers full and fair wages are not placed at a competitive disadvantage.”
The Wage and Hour Division is concerned about the prevalence of unlawful pay practices such as requiring employees to work exclusively for tips, without regard to minimum wage standards; making illegal deductions from workers’ wages for walk-outs, breakages and cash register shortages; and incorrectly calculating overtime according to the $2.13 per hour base rate before tips, instead of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Significant child labor violations – such as allowing minors to operate hazardous equipment including dough mixers and meat slicers – also persist in this industry.
As part of the initiative, the division will be conducting investigations of Hillsborough County restaurants to identify patterns of FLSA violations. When violations are found, the division will vigorously pursue corrective action – including payment of back wages, civil money penalties and liquidated damages – to ensure accountability and deter future violations.
Additionally, the division will engage key employer associations to help provide employers with child labor and FLSA compliance assistance information, and to secure cooperation in promoting industry-wide compliance and accountability. Similarly, the division will conduct outreach to workers and community groups to demonstrate its commitment to addressing systemic wage and child labor violations, and to encourage vulnerable workers to recognize potential violations.
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 rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. For those employees who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips, employers may pay a base rate of $2.13 an hour in direct wages if the tips cover any difference to meet the minimum wage. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.
For more information about this initiative call the Wage and Hour Division’s Tampa office at 813-288-1242. For more information about FLSA, call the division’s national toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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