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WHD News Release: [02/24/2011]
Contact Name: Elizabeth Todd or Juan Rodriguez
Phone Number: (972) 850-4710 or x4709
Release Number: 11-0190-DAL
US Labor Department collects $2 million in back wages, civil money penalties from Houston-based Hong Kong Market grocery chain
Nearly 400 workers owed payment for minimum wage, overtime violations
HOUSTON The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $1.8 million in back wages for nearly 400 workers and collected $200,000 in civil money penalties from Houston-based grocery stores Hong Land Corp., Hong Kong Group Inc., Pacific Ocean Enterprise Inc. and B&B Corner Corp., all doing business as Hong Kong Market, and store owners Hai Du Duong and Ha Duong.
A consent judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the department charging the defendants with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They have been ordered to pay a total of $1.8 million in minimum wage and overtime back wages. In addition, they paid $200,000 in civil money penalties for repeat and willful violations of the FLSA.
"These employers disregarded our nation's most basic labor laws. They exploited the vulnerability of hundreds of low-wage workers, and then deliberately misled investigators to try to keep them from finding out the truth," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The Labor Department will use all enforcement tools available, including litigation and penalties. We will secure full and fair compensation for affected workers, and we will level the playing field for businesses that follow the rules."
An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division revealed that the defendants had committed several violations of the FLSA's minimum wage, overtime pay and recordkeeping provisions, including falsifying payroll records and coercing vulnerable workers to return wages earned. The investigation disclosed that employees worked as many as 70 hours a week, but were paid less than the minimum wage and denied overtime compensation due for hours worked over 40 per week.
In addition to the back wages, the defendants paid civil money penalties because they continued to violate the FLSA after being put on notice of similar violations in a prior investigation.
The consent judgment required immediate payment of the back wages and enjoins the defendants from further violations of the FLSA, which requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The act also requires employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or the division's district office in Houston at 713-339-5500. Information is available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.