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<!–:en–>CALIFORNIA JAPANESE RESTAURANT GROUP TO PAY $145K IN BACK WAGES TO KITCHEN WORKERS<!–:–>

September 7, 2011

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) participation in an alliance that helps Spanish-speaking workers has led to an agreement by a Los Angeles-based Japanese restaurant group to pay $144,721 to 66 employees who worked an average of 45 to 50 hours per week, but were not paid the required overtime rates for all hours beyond 40, DOL announced Aug. 22.

Through interviews and a review of payroll records and time sheets, investigators with DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found that dishwashers, prep cooks, and cooks were issued payroll checks for their regular hours, and then were paid in cash at “straight time” rates for their overtime hours, DOL noted.

The investigation revealed “systemic violations” of overtime, minimum, wage and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act at seven locations of Bishamon Group Restaurants. The review covered the period April 1, 2009, through April 1, 2011, a DOL spokesman told BNA Aug. 22.

The Wage and Hour Division learned of the restaurants’ practices through its participation in the Employment Education and Outreach Partnership, known as EMPLEO, an alliance of organizations and government agencies engaged in assisting Spanish-speaking workers and employers with work-related concerns, DOL said.

EMPLEO now is in its seventh year, and is staffed by trained volunteers from the Diocese of San Bernardino’s Catholic Charities Center, and the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, who refer callers to EMPLEO partners for assistance, Francisco Ocampo, assistant district director of Wage and Hour Division’s Western Regional Office, told BNA Aug. 22.

“The results of this investigation demonstrate the Labor Department’s commitment to ensuring that all workers receive the pay to which they are legally entitled as well as EMPLEO’s impact on the communities it serves,” Patricia Davidson, acting administrator for the Wage and Hour Division’s Western Regional Office, said in a statement. “In this case, one worker’s voice helped 65 other low-wage employees receive full pay for the overtime hours they worked.”

Since its inception, EMPLEO has handled some 6,700 calls, Ocampo told BNA. Most of the calls deal with questions of overtime pay, minimum wages, meal and rest period rules, discrimination, safety and hazardous materials, family and medical leave, and payment of a last pay check, a DOL spokesman said.

The alliance, which includes federal and state agencies, as well as area consulates from Mexico and other Central American nations, was conceived as a way that Spanish-speaking workers and employers, at least some of whom were undocumented, could receive information about employment rights and laws, Ocampo said.

Volunteers are trained to steer callers first to DOL, which then funnels the callers to the appropriate state or federal agency, he added.

In addition to paying the back wages, Bishamon Group also agreed to immediately implement a proper timekeeping system that incorporates the correct overtime wage rate, DOL said. 09-07-2011. Bureau of National Affairs.