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News Release

Labor Department launches West Coast sweep to investigate pay practices at fast food establishments to ensure fairness, compliance

More than $6.7M in back wages recovered for 18K workers since 2013

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has launched an education and enforcement initiative on the West Coast and in surrounding areas aimed at ensuring workers at fast food establishments are being paid the proper minimum wage and overtime.

Investigations completed in the last five quarters nationwide have resulted in fast food employers paying more than $6.7 million in back wages owed to nearly 18,000 employees.

Investigators will continue to look at establishments in California, Oregon and Washington, ensuring compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s wage and recordkeeping practices. In addition to conducting investigations, Wage and Hour officials are organizing roundtable meetings with local industry stakeholders, holding training sessions with groups of restaurant franchise owners on FLSA compliance, and meeting one-on-one with various franchisors. The fast food industry widely uses the franchise ownership model in its operations. 

“The men and women cooking and serving our burgers and fries are some of the hardest working people in our communities, often juggling long shifts and multiple jobs for comparatively low wages. We want to make sure they’re being paid every penny they rightfully earn,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez. “Unfortunately, we still find business owners willing to cut corners at workers’ expense. This initiative will ensure that these workers are paid their hard-earned wages. It will also help to level the playing field so that the many upstanding restaurant owners who play by the rules do not find themselves at a competitive disadvantage to those who do not. ”

Investigators will continue to look for common the fast food restaurant industry violations, including:

  • Failure to pay workers for all hours worked, typically time spent either before or after a scheduled shift.
  • Deductions from pay that result in minimum wage  and overtime violations.
  • Unlawfully categorizing some salaried workers as exempt from overtime.
  • Requiring minors to work in jobs or at times prohibited by child labor laws.
  • Misclassifying  delivery drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees, and as a result denying them minimum wage and overtime.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus one and one-half times their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.

For more information about federal wage laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at

Read this news brief in Españól.

Wage and Hour Division
February 4, 2016
Release Number
Media Contact: Leo Kay
Phone Number
Media Contact: Jose Carnevali