Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
Court grants hearing seeking protection from threats and retaliation for Washington state masseuses, restaurant workers
US Labor Department finds wages, damages due to Bellingham and Lynnwood employees
SEATTLE -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint in U.S District Court in Seattle seeking to recover overtime back wages and damages for approximately 100 workers employed by the owners of a restaurant and multiple massage therapy locations in Washington state. The court has granted a request by the department for a preliminary injunction hearing seeking to protect workers from threats and retaliation by the employers. The hearing is scheduled for June 19.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that Bellingham-based J & J Mongolian Grill, Spa Therapy and their owners failed to pay federal minimum wage and overtime to cooks, kitchen helpers, cashiers and masseuses, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“These employers willfully ignored their obligations, threatened their workers and provided false documents to the department to evade the law,” said Donna Hart, director of the division’s Seattle District Office. “These inexcusable actions have had a significant impact on vulnerable workers, their families and communities.”
Investigators found that employees of the J & J Mongolian Grill in Bellingham’s Bellis Fair Mall were required to work six days a week and were paid less than the federal minimum wage. They received no overtime pay for hours worked over 40 per week. Masseuses working at two Spa Therapy locations at Bellingham’s Bellis Fair Mall, and a location now closed at the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, were scheduled to work seven days a week and were paid less than the federal minimum wage and received no overtime pay. Record-keeping violations were also identified.
During the investigation, the division explained record-keeping requirements to the employer and the immediate need to keep accurate time and pay records. However, investigators found that instead of complying, the employers repeatedly provided falsified payroll records.
The division determined that the employer had threatened workers with retaliation, including physical harm, for any cooperation with the department. The preliminary injunction sought by the department seeks protections for workers, including individually notifying them of their rights under the FLSA, the right to be free from threats, intimidation and retaliation, and their right to contact and cooperate with federal investigators.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The FLSA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees and requires employers to maintain accurate records.
The complaint and request for a preliminary injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The department was represented by its regional Office of the Solicitor in Seattle. For more information about the FLSA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Seattle office at 206-398-8039. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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