US Department of Labor recovers $184K in back wages, damages for 56 workers shortchanged by Naples restaurant
TAMPA, FL – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $184,139 in back wages and liquidated damages for 56 seasonal guest workers and U.S. workers of a Naples restaurant after finding multiple violations of federal nonimmigrant work program regulations and federal minimum wage and overtime regulations.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division found Sails Restaurant LLC violated provisions of the H-2B worker visa program by misrepresenting job requirements, including willfully misrepresenting access to high-paid server positions – suggesting unlimited earnings potential when instead no such job existed and promotional positions out of reach for many – and shifting a dining room attendant to another job as a construction laborer. The agency also found the employer:
- Imposed special experience requirements for H-2B workers to qualify for jobs.
- Failed to list all qualifications in the job order.
- Did not give proper notices related to job termination, denying H-2B workers U.S. work status rights.
- Improperly classified jobs or excluded job tasks on work orders.
- Failed to provide job orders or notify workers of their rights.
- Did not reimburse visa expenses for H-2B workers, despite being aware of the requirement.
The division assessed $53,536 in civil money penalties.
“Federal law protects nonimmigrant workers employed under the H-2B program, and Sails Restaurant – which has used the program before and is well aware of its requirements – violated those laws,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nicolas Ratmiroff in Tampa, Florida. “All workers, both U.S. and nonimmigrant workers, must be paid their lawfully earned wages.”
Investigators also found the employer illegally kept the tips of some H-2B and U.S. workers, failed to pay one worker their last paycheck and paid an incorrect overtime rate to tipped employees, all violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Hospitality and food industry employers must understand that regardless of whether the employer is taking a tip credit, employers are prohibited from keeping employee tips or requiring that an employee give their tips to the employer, a supervisor, or manager. The division has numerous resources available on our website and has staff available who are able to answer questions and provide compliance assistance to employers,” Ratmiroff added.
On Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT), the Wage and Hour Division will host a free webinar to educate employers in the hospitality industry of the requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act and H-2B provisions. Information related to requirements under Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Employment and Training Administration Office of Foreign Labor Certification will also be provided. The event is free but registration is required.
The federal H-2B visa program permits U.S. employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services. The employment must be for a limited, specific period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal, peak load or intermittent need.
Sails Restaurant is a full-service dining establishment in Naples. The restaurant opened in February 2018 and employs about 60 workers during season.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers and employers can contact the division confidentially and the department can assist callers in more than 200 languages.
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. Download the agency’s timesheet app, which is free and available in English and Spanish for Android and iOS devices, to track hours and pay.