The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s (“DOL”) ongoing initiative has thus far recovered $2.3 million in back wages for 578 workers employed at pizza and pasta restaurants in Long Island. The restaurant owners were also fined civil penalties amounting to $202,315 for willful and repeat violations.
The investigation found 35 Italian restaurants in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The illegal acts included paying cash wages “off the books” when the employers should have been maintaining the required employment records, paying a fixed salary for all the hours that an employee worked rather than paying minimum wage and applying overtime, and for falsifying time and payroll records.
The Long Island district office used different strategies to track down noncompliance with the wage and hour laws. Investigators visited restaurants to figure out minimum wage patterns, overtime and record keeping violations, and reminded workers of their FLSA rights. They also reviewed payroll records, interviewed employees to assess employer compliance with wage laws, as well as used surveillance to detect violations. Irv Milijoner, director of the DOL’s Long Island district office stated “It’s becoming increasingly common for us not only finding minimum wage violations and overtime violations but a preponderance of employees being paid off the books.”
The DOL’s district office is taking a tough stand against noncompliance and aggressively going after employers breaking the law. It is using all available enforcement tools including litigation, administrative subpoenas, and civil monetary penalty assessments and liquidated damages. In fact, the division has engaged in litigation against 26 local restaurants from which it recovered over $1,914,000 in back wages and liquidated damages for over 300 employees. It also assessed the restaurant owners $127,000 in penalties for their willful and/or repeat violations.
Milijoner also stated that the national estimate of the amount of money employers avoid in paying some taxes is about $800 billion. HIs office is now planning to go after the 100 or so diners in Nassau and Suffolk counties for wage and hour violations.
The FLSA requires an employer to pay an employee at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and overtime of time and a half for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. It also requires an employer to maintain accurate records of all employees and their wages, hours, and identifying information. Payroll records must be kept for at least three years while records on which wages are determined should be maintained for two years. For example, you should keep an employees time cards, wage rage tables, work and time schedules for at least 2 years.
The DOL is determined to find any restaurant industry employers who violating wage and hour laws. It has also made it know that it intends to go after diners next. If you have a restaurant or a diner, make sure your personnel records and payroll records are in compliance with the FLSA. Our Wage & Hour Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala can help you make sure you are in compliance with state and federal labor laws. Call us at (800) 893-9645 to help you avoid costly litigation or fines and penalties.
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News Release, United States Department of Labor