Sunday 25 June 2017

Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division Targets Restaurants in LA, San Francisco, and Portland OR

The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced in three separate press releases a new initiative to target the restaurant industry in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland Oregon. The Agency aims to prevent minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and child labor violations. Restaurants in these cities would be well advised to seek counsel and ensure compliance. As restaurants owners in New York discovered defending claims from the Agency can be near impossible without proper record-keeping.

The Agency said it was “launching an enforcement initiative focused on restaurants in the Portland metropolitan area [and San Francisco, and LA] to combat widespread violations of the minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and child labor provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.”

The Agency went on to explain its initiative in Portland:

“The restaurant industry employs some of our country’s lowest-paid workers, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation,” said Jeffrey Genkos, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Portland District Office. “For a variety of reasons, including the fear of retaliation and of losing their jobs, these employees are reluctant to step forward and complain when subjected to wage violations. Investigators will be making unannounced visits to restaurants throughout the area to conduct investigations, remedy widespread labor violations, and ensure that law-abiding employers who pay their workers full and fair wages are not placed at a competitive disadvantage.”

From 2006 through 2011, the division’s Portland office conducted 281 restaurant investigations and identified FLSA violations at 79 percent of the restaurants. Those violations resulted in more than $3 million in minimum and overtime back wages owed to more than 1,600 workers. During the same period, the division conducted more than 1,800 investigations of restaurants along the West Coast and found that 71 percent were violating the FLSA. Employers in those cases have agreed to pay more than $12 million in back wages to more than 9,500 employees.

A similar explanation was provided for the initiative in San Francisco:

“Our current enforcement efforts in San Francisco’s restaurant industry reveal an alarming culture of FLSA violations,” said Susana Rincon, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s San Francisco District Office. “For a variety of reasons, including the fear of losing their jobs, vulnerable restaurant employees are reluctant to step forward to complain when subjected to wage violations. Employers can take advantage of these fears, and employees end up victims of numerous types of wage and other labor violations. As part of this initiative, investigators will be making unannounced visits to restaurants throughout the area to conduct investigations, remedy widespread labor violations, and ensure that law-abiding employers who pay their workers full and fair wages are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by those who break the rules.”

From 2006 through 2011, the division’s San Francisco office conducted more than 500 restaurant investigations and identified FLSA violations at 68 percent of the restaurants. Those violations resulted in more than $2.1 million in minimum and overtime back wages owed to nearly 2,500 employees. During the same period, the division conducted more than 1,800 investigations of restaurants along the West Coast and found that 71 percent were violating the FLSA, resulting in more than $12 million in back wages owed to more than 9,500 employees.

and in Los Angeles:

“Los Angeles is home to one of the largest segments of the restaurant industry in the country, and at the same time employs a disproportionate number of immigrant workers who are especially vulnerable to illegal business practices such as unfair treatment and disparate wages,” said Kimchi Bui, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Los Angeles District Office. “Our goal is to protect workers while making sure that law-abiding restaurant employers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by those that break the law.”

In the past six years, the division’s Los Angeles office found that 72 percent of all restaurants investigated in its jurisdiction were in violation of the FLSA. Those violations resulted in $2.2 million in minimum and overtime back wages owed to more than 1,400 workers. During the same period, the division conducted more than 1,800 investigations of restaurants along the West Coast and found that 71 percent were violating the FLSA, resulting in more than $12 million in back wages owed to more than 9,500 employees.

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