DOL Forces Wok King Restaurant to Pay $531K in Wage and Hour Violations
October 10, 2011
Our Newport Beach, California employment lawyers blog recently discussed the topic of wage theft among low-wage restaurant industry workers, and the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) ongoing commitment to support employees in their legally entitled right to receive fair wages in the workplace.
According to a recent DOL Wage and Hour Division investigation, the company Wok King International Buffet Inc. and their owners were recently ordered to pay $531,000 in back wages and damages to forty-one employees, after the department sued the company for violating minimum wage and overtime laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as well as failing to keep accurate records of employee payments.
The DOL investigators reportedly found that the restaurant employees were averaging 63 hours per week, without receiving their legally entitled right to overtime compensation. Some of the workers were earning around $1.93 per hour, and were paid "straight time" or flat rate wages, instead of overtime payment under the FLSA, which is one and one-half times their regular compensation rate for hours worked beyond forty hours in a workweek.
The DOL also found that other employees were paid a set monthly salary that failed to include any overtime compensation and was less than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Under the FLSA, when employees regularly receive over $30 per month in monetary tips, employers may compensate with a base rate of $2.13 an hour in wages, but only if the tips cover the monetary difference to comply with the federal minimum wage standard.
Donna Hart, the DOL's Wage and Hour Division Director in Seattle, stated that this case sets a clear example of the ongoing wage and hour violations in the restaurant industry, where vulnerable workers who are not native English speakers, or who are not aware of their federal rights, are taken advantage of.
As our Carson employment lawyers blog discussed recently almost 30% of Los Angeles workers are paid less than the federal minimum wage, with around 80% of workers not receiving the overtime compensation, according to the results of a low-wage study performed in 2008, by UCLA. Nearly 64% of these workers also did not receive accurate pay records. Another recent study found that 82% of restaurant workers in Los Angeles earn less than a living wage, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers of Los Angeles (ROC-LA).
In 2009, the DOL filed the wage and hour lawsuit, alleging that Wok King had violated the FLSA between March 2007 and August 2008, robbing forty-one employees of wage and hour benefits. The restaurant will reportedly pay $531,000, which will rage from individual employee payments from $309 to over $71,000. The owners of the Wok King have three years to locate and pay the employees the back wages that they are owed, according to the DOL settlement. The judgment also holds the owners responsible for all violations, and includes a permanent injunction that prohibits them from violating the FLSA in the future.
In Tustin, Villa Park, and Westminster, and throughout Orange County, California contact our labor and employment lawyer team at Howard Law, PC today, for a free consultation about your wage and hour issue.
Wok King owners ordered to pay back wages to workers, Tri-city Herald, September 15, 2011
U.S. Labor Department recovers nearly $531,000 in back wages and damages for 41 employees of Wok King International Buffet in Kennewick, Wash., U.S. Department of Labor Press Release, September 14, 2011
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