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News Release

Over 1200 grocery workers receive more than $1.3M in back wages and damages

Minimum wage, overtime violations widespread in Houston specialty stores

HOUSTON — Imagine living on less than $300 a week in an area where a month's rent averages $1,000 or more. That's a reality for many workers in specialty grocery stores in Houston, reports the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. The finding results from a multiyear enforcement initiative by the division that found widespread minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the division's Houston District Office concluded 120 cases and returned to 1253 workers more than $1.3 million in back wages and damages. In its investigations, the division found employees worked off the clock; were not paid for mandatory training time; were wrongly classified as overtime exempt; or were paid straight time for overtime hours. Some employees' pay also fell below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour when they paid for register shortages and uniforms. Investigators also found employers committed recordkeeping violations by failing to maintain time and payroll records, and others who did not display posters to inform workers about their workplace rights, as required.

"Violations of the law were as varied as the employers we investigated," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "We will use every enforcement tool available to us to make sure workers in this industry are paid fairly and in accord with the law. We will continue to focus our effort on grocery stores that cater to a variety of communities and their supply chains, most of whom employ the most vulnerable workers."

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, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must maintain accurate time and payroll records. Under the FLSA, employers who violate the law are liable for employees' back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees. Employers must also distinguish employees from bona fide independent contractors. An employee, as distinguished from a person who is engaged in a business of his own, is one who, as a matter of economic reality, follows the usual path of an employee and is dependent on the business that he serves. For more information, visit

For more information about federal wage laws, or to file a complaint, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Houston District Office at 713-339-5500. Information also is available at


Wage and Hour Division
April 9, 2015
Release Number
Media Contact: Juan Rodriguez