Federal court finds owner of three Hawaii restaurants shortchanged 71 workers, orders payment of $220K in back wages, damages
HONOLULU – A federal court has affirmed the findings of a U.S. Department of Labor investigation that determined the owner of three Hawaii restaurants denied workers overtime and minimum wages, and discarded time records in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In its action, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii ordered Sujin Tomita and her restaurants Sura Hawaii I and Than Q Pocha in Honolulu, and Sura Hawaii II in Kapolei, to pay of $210,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to 71 workers, and $10,000 in civil money penalties for willfully violating the law.
The outcome follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found Tomita and her restaurants willfully paid workers less than federal minimum wage and no overtime for hours worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. The division also found the employer discarded time records each month.
Many of the workers – predominantly from Chuuk, one of the four Federated States of Micronesia – worked an average of 46 hours per week. Investigators also found that Sura Hawaii I paid servers and other workers a flat salary for all hours worked without considering whether such salary amounted to at least the required federal minimum wage.
“Paying a flat salary for all hours worked does not allow an employer to ignore its legal obligation to pay frontline staff overtime wages when they work more 40 hours in a workweek.” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Terence Trotter in Honolulu. “In this case, the employer willfully shortchanged workers of hard-earned wages. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to ensuring that workers get paid all the wages they have legally earned. We encourage other employers in this industry to use the results of this investigation as an opportunity to review their own pay practices and to avoid violations like those found in this case.”
In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division identified more than $230 million in back wages owed to workers nationwide, and helped more than 190,000 workers as a result of its investigations. Specifically, the division found more than $34.7 million in wages owed to food service workers.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws the division enforces, contact its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.