News Brief

US Labor Department recovers $251K in back wages for 27 workers after finding West Columbia restaurant kept tips, failed to pay overtime

Employer:                             Happy China Buffet Inc.

                                               2515 Sunset Blvd.

                                               West Columbia, SC 29169

Investigation findings: U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found the buffet restaurant operator kept a portion of servers’ and hibachi chefs’ tips, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Happy China Buffet also paid some kitchen workers a fixed monthly salary that fell below the federal minimum wage for all hours worked. By doing so, the amount paid did not qualify as a bona-fide salary, which led the employer to owe overtime premiums to the workers. In addition, the employer failed to maintain time and pay records. 

Back wages recovered: The division recovered $251,594 in back wages for 27 workers.                                               

Quote: “Tips belong in the hands of the employees who earned them. Employers who deny tipped workers their full earnings often face severe consequences when tip credits are invalidated,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jamie Benefiel in Columbia, South Carolina. “Employers and workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.”

Background: Employers can contact the Wage and Hour Division at its toll-free number, 1-866-4-US-WAGE. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including its search tool to learn if you are owed back wages collected by the division and an overview about the FLSA protections for restaurant workers. Workers and employers alike can help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and IOS Timesheet App for free in English or  Spanish.

Wage and Hour Division
July 11, 2023
Release Number
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
Phone Number
Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
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