California Restaurant Ordered to Pay Workers Nearly $404K in Back Wages, Damages

March 18, 2012

In a recent California wage and hour lawsuit settlement that our Costa Mesa employment lawyers been watching, a U.S. district court judge has ordered a Chinese restaurant in Sunnyvale, California, to pay 32 employees around $404,000 in damages and unpaid wages, after the employer reportedly violated minimum wage and overtime payment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), who brought the case against the restaurant, United Buffet, Inc., operating as Crazy Buffet under manager Zhou Ni, was found to have issued paychecks to restaurant employees, but illegally demanded that the wait staff to return their wages, keeping only their tips for compensation. Crazy Buffet was also found to have failed to compensate workers for any overtime hours worked beyond forty in a week of work--even though the average work week for the employees was 60-72 hours per week. The employer was also found to have falsified the payment, time and attendance records for the employees--a violation of the FLSA.

The restaurant industry continues to be a high priority for the DOL's Wage and Hour Division, due to the nature of the low-wage industry, and the number of vulnerable employees that work for the industry--especially workers who are immigrants, or who have limited skills in the English language and who are unaware of their rights. As Vincent Howard often reports in our Irvine employment lawyers blog, federal labor law violations pose a constant threat to low wage industries across the country--when employers fail to comply with the overtime, minimum wage compensation and record-keeping provisions of the FLSA. When employees experience wage theft, or some form of a pay-related violations where money is kept from them, this results in money being kept from their families, communities, and even the government.

According to the DOL's Wage and Hour Division District Office in San Francisco, Crazy Buffet failed to show any concern for its employees and for federal labor and employment laws. The DOL reportedly asked Judge Ronald M. Whyte to approve their request for a default judgment in the wage and hour lawsuit--after the restaurant refused to pay $44,569.63 in unpaid minimum wages and $157,380.37 in overtime payment that resulted in these violations of the FLSA. The restaurant will pay the employees the $201,950 in back payment as well an equal monetary amount in liquidated damages.

In addition to awarding the back payment and monetary damages to the employees, the court granted the DOL's request for an injunction that will prevent the employer from committing FLSA violations in the future, as well as another injunction against the continual withholding of compensation that remains unpaid.

Under the FLSA, employers are required to pay nonexempt employees the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half the workers' normal pay rates for each hour worked over forty hours in a workweek, which includes bonuses, commissions and incentive compensation. As Vincent Howard reported in a recent Anaheim employment lawyers blog, the FLSA requires that tipped employees are compensated with the minimum wage of $2.13 in hourly wages, as long as the tips received totals at least $7.25, the federal minimum wage. If the combined tips and direct wages of an employee do not equal the minimum wage, then the employer is required to make up the compensation difference.

In San Clemente, Seal Beach and Tustin, California, contact Howard Law's managing attorney Vincent Howard and our labor and employment legal team today, to discuss your wage and hour issue, so we can help find the best solution for your recovery.

Judge orders Sunnyvale, Calif., restaurant to pay workers nearly $404,000 in unpaid wages, damages following US Labor Department investigation, U.S. Department of Labor Press Release, March 15, 2012

Related Web Resources:

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

Related Blog Posts:

Texas Hospitality Industry Investigated by DOL for Employee Misclassification, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 16, 2012

DOL Launches Employee Misclassification Initiative in Seattle-based Nail Salons, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 12, 2012

Mexican Restaurant Pays Over $74K in Back Wages for Employee Misclassification, California Employment Lawyers Blog, March 6, 2012
March 6, 2012

Restaurant Pays $83K in Back Wages for Overtime, Minimum Wage Violations of FLSA, California Employment Lawyers Blog, November 17, 2011

Tennessee Restaurants To Pay Overtime Back Wages for Willful and Repeated FLSA Violations, California Employment Lawyer Blog, November 11, 2011

DOL Continues to Track Down Federal Wage and Hour Law Violations in the Workplace, California Employment Lawyers Blog, September 8, 2011

CA Wage and Hour Lawsuit Settlement--66 Japanese Employees to Receive $145K in Overtime Back Wages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, August 22, 2011

Another DOL Investigation Brings Restaurant Employees $275K in Overtime Back Wages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 18, 2011

Taqueria Restaurant to Pay Workers Nearly $250K in Overtime Back Pay and Minimum Wages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 15, 2011

Feds Crack Down on Wage and Hour Violations in NY Restaurants, California Employment Lawyers Blog, April 15, 2011

Mexican Restaurants To Pay Over $1M in Back Wages and Overtime, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 1, 2011

Survey Reveals Wage Theft in Chinatown Restaurants, California Employment Lawyers Blog, October 1, 2010

DOL Wage and Hour Division Audits for Low Wage Industry Violations, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 20, 2010

Hospitality Industry Continues to Violate Workers' Wage and Hour Rights, California Employment Lawyers Blog, April 18, 2011

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