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San Francisco and Los Angeles restaurant workers recover more than $672,000 in unpaid wages following investigations by the Labor Department
Wage and Hour Division enforcement initiatives remedy significant labor law violations
SAN FRANCISCO Ongoing enforcement initiatives conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division that focused on the restaurant industry in California have uncovered significant violations of the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under these initiatives, personnel from the division's San Francisco and Los Angeles District Offices conducted several restaurant investigations in 2012. They recovered $672,333 in unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation for 273 employees working as cooks, bussers, servers and other restaurant staff.
Wage and Hour Division investigators conducted thorough reviews of payroll records and employment practices, in addition to employee interviews to assess employer compliance with all applicable labor standards. Common FLSA violations uncovered during these investigations include not paying employees for all hours worked, such as pre-shift and post-shift work; paying employees cash wages "off the books;" paying fixed salaries for all hours worked, without regard to minimum wage and overtime requirements; missing payroll or failing to pay employees on scheduled pay days; and not maintaining accurate records of employees' wages and work hours.
"We have found widespread labor violations among restaurants in well-known tourist areas in San Francisco and throughout Los Angeles County. This culture of noncompliance adversely impacts the wages and working conditions of many low-wage, vulnerable workers," said Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the West. "We are pleased that these employees — many of whom worked 10-hour shifts, five to six days per week — will finally be paid their rightful wages. As demonstrated by the success of our ongoing initiatives, we are committed to strengthening FLSA compliance in the restaurant industry to protect workers and ensure a level playing field for the many employers who abide by the law and properly pay their employees."
The FLSA requires that covered 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 hours worked over 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.
The department has a smart phone application to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, users can conveniently track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. This new technology is significant because, instead of solely relying on their employers' records, workers can now keep their own records. This and other Labor Department apps are available at www.dol.gov/whd/.
Information on establishments investigated under the ongoing restaurant initiative will be included in the division's enforcement database, which can be viewed online atwww.dol.gov/whd/. It is also accessible via the "Eat Shop Sleep" smart phone app, which can be found on the Labor Department's app Web page. Consumers, employees and other members of the public can use the app to learn if a restaurant, hotel or retail establishment has been investigated by the division, and whether FLSA violations were found. Businesses will have a greater incentive to comply with the law now that their compliance track records are publicly available.
For more information about the requirements of the FLSA, contact the Wage and Hour Division's San Francisco office at 415-625-7720, the Los Angeles District Office at 213-894-6375 or the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at www.dol.gov/whd/.
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