Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
Multiyear US Department of Labor initiative results in more than $1 million in back wages and damages for 1,518 workers at Tampa-area restaurants
Investigations find minimum wage, overtime and child labor violations
TAMPA, Fla. -- For more than two years, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has been conducting a robust strategic enforcement initiative aimed at strengthening labor law compliance in the Tampa Bay area’s restaurant industry. Since fiscal year 2012, 152 full-service restaurants in the greater Tampa Bay area have agreed to pay 1,518 employees $861,820 in back wages, plus $152,081 in liquated damages. Investigations found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime, minimum wage, record-keeping, and child labor provisions. The division also assessed $12,509.25 in civil money penalties.
“Underpaying and improperly paying workers cheats them out of their hard-earned income, making it unnecessarily difficult for them to make ends meet,” said Wayne Kotowski, Southeast regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division. “Unfortunately, these types of labor violations are all too common in the restaurant industry. That’s why we are committed to protecting restaurant workers and ensuring a fair and level playing field for those responsible employers who play by the rules.”
The FLSA violations found at the establishments resulted from the employers’ failure to compensate employees properly for all hours worked. Common violations included employers creating illegal tip pools involving kitchen staff, which resulted in servers and waiters not being paid the proper minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or overtime compensation; paying straight-time wages for overtime hours; and making illegal deductions from worker’s wages for credit card transaction fees, which reduced wages below the required minimum wage. Additionally, employers failed to maintain accurate and thorough records of employees’ wages and work hours. Child labor violations were cited for allowing minors to perform hazardous duties, such as operating and cleaning a meat slicer.
Significant labor violations were uncovered at the following restaurants: Frenchy’s Original Café, 41 Baymont St., Clearwater; Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill on the Beach, 7 Rockaway St., Clearwater; Frenchy’s South Beach Café, 351 S. Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater; Frenchy’s Saltwater Café, 419 Poinsettia Ave., Clearwater; Frenchy’s Outpost Bar and Grill, 466 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin; Simply Delicious LLC, 4601 66th St., Kenneth City; Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant, 9212 Anderson Road, Tampa; and Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant, 13731 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.
In addition to paying the back wages and liquidated damages to the affected employees, the restaurant owners have agreed to maintain future compliance with the FLSA.
“We are pleased that we have been able to secure back wages for so many workers,” said James Schmidt, director of the division’s Tampa District Office. “However, the industry needs to do more to ensure compliance with Wage and Hour rules. In addition to our ongoing enforcement activities, we routinely offer help with compliance and stand ready to assist those employers who seek our help. We will continue to conduct outreach to workers, community organizations and other stakeholders, so that workers are aware of their rights.”
The division is continuing its enforcement initiative this year to identify and remedy FLSA violations in Tampa and the surrounding Hillsborough County restaurant industry. When violations are found, the division is pursuing corrective action, including payment of back wages, civil money penalties and liquidated damages to ensure accountability and deter future violations.
Additionally, the division is collaborating with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to identify problem areas of mutual concern and gain an accurate understanding of local business models and issues. The state agency is responsible for licensing and regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. It also conducts investigations, audits, inventories and tax assessments; imposes penalties for violations; and encourages licensees to operate their businesses properly. In keeping with this collaboration, the Wage and Hour Division is referring case findings for review under state liquor licensing guidelines.
The restaurant industry employs some of the country’s lowest-paid workers who, due to a lack of knowledge of the law or a reluctance to exercise their rights, are vulnerable to disparate treatment and labor violations. In addition to the initiative in Florida, the Wage and Hour Division has other ongoing enforcement initiatives throughout the U.S. to identify and remedy violations that are common in the restaurant industry.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour 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 per 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 and to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
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 is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/homePage.php.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal labor laws, call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Tampa office at 813-942-8341. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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