April 10, 2012
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced on April 2nd that it is launching an initiative to combat widespread violations of the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the restaurant industry in the San Francisco area. Citing “an alarming culture of FLSA violations,” Susana Rincon, WHD’s San Francisco district director, in a statement said “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.” Rincon added that, as part of this initiative, investigators will make unannounced visits to restaurants.
According to the DOL, the WHD’s San Francisco office conducted more than 500 restaurant investigations from 2006 through 2011 and identified FLSA violations at 68 percent of the restaurants that resulted in more than $2.1 million in minimum wage and overtime back wages owed to nearly 2,500 employees.
Thin profit margins—particularly at low-cost, ethnic food establishments—serve as an incentive for some employers to use illegal tactics to keep labor costs low, DOL said. Common violations include not paying for all hours worked, having employees perform work duties “off the clock,” and incorrectly designating employees as exempt from overtime. Other violations include paying nonexempt employees a flat salary regardless of any overtime hours worked and paying cash wages completely off the books, DOL
explained. Illegal deductions from workers’ wages for uniforms, breakages, customer walkouts (instances of people leaving without paying for meals), and cash register shortages also are common, DOL said. The agency added that previous investigations revealed child labor violations, including allowing minors to operate hazardous equipment like dough mixers and meat slicers. 04.10.2012.
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