Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Two El Jimador Mexican Restaurants in Clemson and Westminster have agreed to pay 13 employees $74,619 in back wages following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The establishments, owned and operated by several members of the Macias family, were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions at both locations.
The investigations were conducted under the division’s multiyear enforcement initiative, focused on the restaurant industry in South Carolina, where widespread noncompliance with the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions has been found. Since fiscal year 2012, the division’s Columbia District Office has concluded more than 130 restaurant investigations, resulting in the recovery of more than $1,580,000 in back wages for more than 1,630 workers.
“We found several low-wage, at-risk employees working off the books at both El Jimador Mexican Restaurants. Many of them worked long hours, often averaging 60 hours a week, but earned far below the minimum wage and no overtime compensation,” said Michelle Garvey, director of the division’s Columbia office. “These workers deserve every penny of the wages they have rightfully earned. Through the effort of our ongoing enforcement initiative, the Wage and Hour Division continues to combat widespread labor violations among South Carolina restaurants to protect workers and ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers.”
The FLSA violations found at both restaurants resulted from the employers’ failure to compensate employees properly for all work hours. By reviewing payroll records and conducting employee interviews, investigators determined that tipped employees, such as servers, were made to rely primarily on tips for pay. Their wages amounted to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Additional minimum wage violations occurred when the employers made illegal deductions from workers’ pay for the cost of their uniforms. The employer failed to pay workers overtime compensation at time and one-half the employees’ regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, as required by the FLSA. The employer also failed to maintain records of employees’ work hours and wages, in violation of FLSA’s record-keeping requirement.
In addition to paying the back wages owed, the restaurants agreed to maintain future compliance with the FLSA by signing a Stipulation of Compliance with the department.
The restaurant industry employs some of the country’s lowest-paid workers who, due to a lack of knowledge of the law or an unwillingness to exercise their rights, are vulnerable to disparate treatment and labor violations. In addition to the initiative in South Carolina, the Wage and Hour Division has other ongoing enforcement initiatives throughout the U.S. to identify and remedy violations that are common in the restaurant industry.
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 rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. It also requires that employers maintain accurate time and payroll records.
Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the department is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/search.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal labor laws, call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Columbia office at 803-765-5981. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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