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DOL Launches Los Angeles-area Restaurant Enforcement Initiative to Combat FLSA Violations

May 3, 2012

In recent Los Angeles employment news, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has launched an education and enforcement initiative geared around the Los Angeles-area restaurant industry--to ensure that employers are complying with the minimum wage, overtime payment, child labor, and record-keeping provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA).

In the DOL's Los Angeles-area enforcement initiative, that Vincent Howard has been following, the WHD will reportedly conduct unannounced restaurant investigations in West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, among other areas within Los Angeles County.

According to the WHD's Los Angeles office, over the past six years, 72 percent of all restaurants that were targeted within the division's jurisdiction were found to have violated the FLSA--resulting in $2.2 million in overtime and minimum back wages that were owed to over 1,400 workers. During the same time period, the division reportedly conducted over 1,800 investigations along the West Coast and found that 71 percent were engaging in violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which resulted in over $12 million in back wages that were owed to over 9,500 workers.

The division's investigations found that many restaurants, especially low-cost ethnic restaurants, often use low profit margins as incentive in order to keep labor costs low by using employment tactics that are against the law. Many common violations include failing to pay employees for all hours worked, forcing employees to work off the clock hours, and engaging in employee misclassification by incorrectly classifying employees as exempt from overtime laws.

The WHD also found other common violations that include paying employees who are non-exempt with flat payment rates regardless of the total amount of actual hours worked, and paying employees wages in cash that were not properly recorded, or "off the books"--which leads to minimum wage and overtime law violations as well as tax liabilities. Deducting wages for employee's uniforms, customer walkouts, cash shortages as well as restaurant breakages are also common illegal violations. Violations of child labor laws were also common in many restaurants, where workers under the age of 18 were allowed to handle hazardous equipment in the workplace.

As Vincent Howard frequently reports, the FLSA requires that employees who are non-exempt and covered by the act, must be compensated with the federally-required minimum wage of $7.25 for all working hours, with overtime compensation of one and one-half the individual's regular pay rate for hours worked beyond forty in a workweek. For tipped employees, employers are required to pay at least $2.13 per hour in direct wages, as long as these wages, plus the employee's tips total at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. If the total of the employee tips combined with the employer's direct wages do not equal the minimum wage, the employer must cover the difference. Employers are also required under the FLSA to maintain time and payroll records that are accurate, and to comply with child labor law restrictions, on hours and hazardous occupations for workers who are under the age of 18.

In the new Los Angeles-area enforcement initiative, the WHD will reportedly pursue corrective action against employers when violations are found, including collecting payment of back wages, assessing civil money penalties and liquidated damages, and pursuing possible litigation. This information will also be included in the DOL's database of enforcement, as well as on the new "Eat Shop Sleep" application for smartphones, which allows consumers, employees and any other person to use the application to learn if the restaurant, retail establishment or hotel has been investigated by the WHD and whether FLSA violations were discovered. This application is being used by the division to enforce FLSA compliance, because that the employer's records will be publicly available online.

In Los Angeles County and Orange County, California, contact Vincent Howard and Howard Law's Costa Mesa-based team of labor and employment attorneys today, to discuss your federal and California wage and hour rights in the workplace.

US Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division launches enforcement and education initiative focused on Los Angeles area restaurants, U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Press Release, April 18, 2012

Related Web Resources:

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

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

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