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News Release

Houston Restaurants Pay $150,000 to Resolve Federal Minimum Wage, Overtime Violations After U.S. Department of Labor Investigation

HOUSTON, TX – After investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Ryuko International LLC and Izakaya WA-River Oaks – both doing business as Izakaya WA in Houston, Texas – have paid $150,371 in back wages to 18 employees to resolve minimum wage and overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Investigators found that the restaurants operated an invalid tip pooling arrangement that included non-tipped workers such as cooks and dishwashers in the distribution of tips earned by wait staff.  That violation negated the employer’s ability to pay servers a tipped-worker minimum wage and claim what is known as a “tip credit,” a credit for tips earned by a tipped employee toward the employer’s obligation to pay that worker the full federal minimum wage. Absent this tip credit, Izakaya WA-River Oaks owed tipped employees the full federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and the corresponding overtime. The employer had paid wait staff the federal tipped employee minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. WHD also cited the employer for recordkeeping violations.

“Restaurant staff often work long, hard hours and must be paid every dollar they legally earn,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Robin Mallett in Houston, Texas. “We encourage employers to contact us for assistance in understanding their responsibilities so that they can avoid violations like those found in this case. We offer a wide variety of tools to explain their responsibilities.”

The law’s requirement that an employee must retain all tips does not preclude a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as waiters, waitresses, bellhops, counter personnel (who serve customers), bussers and service bartenders. A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs and janitors.

The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, confidential calls, or in-person visits to local WHD offices.

Employers who discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd including a search tool for workers who may be owed back wages collected by WHD.

The mission of WHD is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Read this news release En Español

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
March 12, 2020
Release Number
20-263-DAL
Contact: Juan Rodriguez
Contact: Chauntra Rideaux
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