Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
China Star of Wichita, Kan., found in contempt of consent judgment for failing to pay more than $223,000 in back wages and damages to workers
US Labor Department investigations uncovered pay, record-keeping violations
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Magistrate Judge Karen M. Humphreys of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas has found China Star of Wichita Inc. and its owners, Hank Luc and Xin G. Chen, in contempt of court for violating a consent judgment approved on May 21, 2008, under which they were required to comply with the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and to pay a total of $223,394 in back wages and liquated damages to 11 employees.
An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that the buffet restaurant's cooks, dishwashers and busboys were paid a flat rate in cash, without regard to overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a week. The employees often were paid less than the federal minimum wage, receiving an average hourly rate of $4.90. The Labor Department successfully argued that these violations placed the defendants in contempt of the 2008 judgment, which had resolved a previous suit brought by the department to address similar violations and also had prohibited future violations of the FLSA.
"This ruling sends an important message to employers that they will be held accountable for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act," said Patricia Preston, the Wage and Hour Division's district director in Kansas City, Mo. "As demonstrated by this case, we will vigorously pursue contempt charges against violators – such as China Star of Wichita and its owners – who repeatedly break the law and have no regard for the rights of our nation's workers."
The Wage and Hour Division has investigated the restaurant three times and found during all investigations that the employer violated the FLSA's pay and record-keeping requirements, and coerced workers to sign falsified records.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. In accordance with the FLSA, an employer of a tipped employee is required to pay no less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages provided that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's direct wages do not equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Employers also are required to provide employees notice of the FLSA tip credit provisions, to maintain accurate time and payroll records, and to comply with the restrictions applying to workers under age 18.
The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees.
Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the Department of Labor is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/search. Enforcement data also are available through the free mobile application "Eat Shop Sleep," which enables consumers, employees and other members of the public to check if a hotel, restaurant or retail location has been investigated by the Wage and Hour Division, and whether FLSA violations were found. The app is available at https://sites.google.com/site/eatshopsleepdol.
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). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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