COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – Working for minimum wage isn’t any worker’s dream job, but if that’s the best job available to you, getting shortchanged by an employer who intentionally cheats on wages and hours due is exactly what the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Dept. of Labor [DOL] is there to handle, as it did in Ohio, where 6 Subway eateries got sandwiched for thousands in back wage fines and 9 Mexican restaurants got grilled for hundreds of thousands.
Fresh buzz busted
For 159 current and former workers of six Subway eateries operated in six small Ohio cities, DOL came through for them in a big way, netting $8,558 in back wages from owner David Andrews, who has Subway eateries in Shelby, Ontario, Willard, Upper Sandusky, Fostoria and Alvada, Ohio, a DOL announcement said Monday. An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that employees of these establishments were denied minimum wage and overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA].
“The Labor Department is making a concerted effort to protect vulnerable, low-wage workers who may not know their legal rights under federal labor laws. Businesses large and small are obligated to pay their workers fairly,” said George Victory, director of the Wage and Hour Division district office in Columbus. “We have seen continued problems in this industry and will not hesitate to take the enforcement measures necessary to hold limited-service restaurants accountable for paying employees their hard-earned wages.”
Victory said the investigation found that Andrews violated the FLSA by deducting cash shortages and the cost of uniforms from employees’ pay, such that it reduced their hourly rates below the federal minimum wage. Andrews also failed to compensate employees for breaks of less than 20 minutes and to pay time and one-half for their regular hourly rates of pay for hours worked over 40 per week. In addition, DOL said the company failed to maintain proper records of the number of hours worked by employees by not recording required pre- and post-shift work in the total hours calculated.
Not making a run for the border
For 129 workers at nine Mexican restaurants in Ohio owned by Miguel Castro, DOL recovered $397,703 in back wages for them. These workers, who showed up for worked in Akron, Tallmadge, Stow, Arlington and Northfield, the issue again was denial of minimum wage and overtime pay. Castro was also fined $11,000 in civil money penalties for willful and repeat violations of the FLSA.
Castro, DOL found, violated the FLSA by failing to compensate tipped employees with a minimum hourly rate for hours worked, and to pay overtime to salaried employees who are covered by the act – servers, cooks, dishwashers and bussers – for all hours worked over 40 in a week. Cooks, dishwashers and bussers were paid cash salaries and worked as many as 65 hours per week without overtime compensation, while servers received tips only. The restaurant also failed to keep accurate pay and time records.
Federal minimum is $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.
Tipped employees customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. Tips received by tipped employees may be counted as wages for purposes of the FLSA, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 per hour, the employer must make up the difference.
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