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News Release

US Labor Department initiative finds 14 Lawrence restaurants owe more than $112K in back wages to 130 workers

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Hospitality industry jobs are often filled by students, temporary, or foreign workers – many of whom are new to the workforce. Among the nation’s lowest-paid workers, they are often unfamiliar with wage laws and their rights. Language barriers, fear of retaliation, and fears about immigration status can also cause them to be among those least likely to exercise their rights, leaving them vulnerable to labor violations.

To protect these workers and to prevent employers who violate the law from gaining an unfair competitive advantage, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is engaged in an education and enforcement initiative in the hospitality industry.

In the Lawrence area, the effort has found 14 employers who owe back wages of $112,191 to 130 restaurant and hotel workers. Investigators have found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime, minimum wage, child labor, and recordkeeping provisions.

“Unfortunately, labor violations like these are all too common in the restaurant and hotel industry,” said Karen Chaikin, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in Chicago. “For these low-wage employees, being shorted in your paycheck can mean the difference between being able to feed your family, or not.  We are committed to ensuring that workers take home every cent they have rightfully earned, and to providing a level playing field for employers who play by the rules.”

In the Lawrence cases violations include:

  • Paying employees fixed salaries without regard to how many hours they worked, leading to overtime violations when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. 
  • Failing to combine hours that employees worked at multiple job sites for the same employer, leading to overtime violations when total hours exceeded 40 per week.
  • Deducting the cost of uniforms from workers’ pay which reduced workers’ effective hourly wages to below the federal minimum wage.
  • Improperly calculating overtime for tipped employees by paying time and one-half the cash wage of $2.13 per hour, rather than basing overtime on the full minimum wage as the law requires.
  • Failing to pay for all the hours employees work.
  • Requiring servers to work only for tips, and failing to show them on the payroll as employees.
  • Failing to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages and hours worked.

“Many of the violations found were consistent across multiple locations, so outreach has been key to educating employers and workers,” said Ricky Robinson, acting director for the wage and hour district office in Kansas City. “Just because a pay practice appears to be an industry or local standard, doesn’t mean that it’s legal.  As our work in this sector continues, we will continue both our enforcement and our education efforts.” 

Investigators found wage violations at the following Lawrence establishments:

  • El Potro Mexican Café
  • Marisco’s Restaurant
  • La Parrilla Latin American Cuisine
  • Genovese Italian Restaurant
  • Ten Restaurant (in the Eldridge Hotel)
  • Paisano’s Ristorante’
  • Tres Mexicanos Mexican Grill & Cantina
  • King Buffet
  • Henry T’s Bar & Grill
  • Mad Greek
  • Zen Zero, Incorporated
  • El Sol Mexican Restaurant
  • The Bird Dog Bar.

During an education and enforcement initiative, in addition to conducting investigations, the division conducts outreach events for employers and industry stakeholders to provide compliance assistance and information on legal rights and responsibilities. The initiatives also raise awareness among workers, community organizations and others regarding federal wage and hour laws and protections.

In 2014, the division began an education and enforcement initiative in the hospitality industry in Midwest college towns and resorts. Currently, the division is investigating restaurants and hotels in Madison, Wisconsin and Iowa City, Iowa. In the coming months, the effort will expand to other cities, and other states.  

Nationwide, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $38 million for 46,902 workers in the restaurant industry in fiscal year 2015.

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. An employer of a tipped employee is required to pay no less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages, provided that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If an employee’s tips, combined with the employer’s direct wages do not equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Employers also are required to provide employees notice of the FLSA tip credit provisions and to maintain accurate time and payroll records. 

Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the department is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/homePage.php. 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 Kansas City Office at 913-551-5721. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
May 17, 2016
Release Number
16-0950-KAN
Contact: Scott Allen
Phone Number
Contact: Rhonda Burke
Phone Number