$54,000 to be Paid in Back Wages by Tampa Restaurant

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sushi Alive, a Tampa-based sushi restaurant, has agreed to pay $54,407 in minimum wage and overtime back wages to 14 restaurant employees, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division that uncovered violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. The investigation was conducted by the division’s Tampa District Office as part of its enforcement initiative to increase FLSA compliance within the Hillsborough County restaurant industry.

“Many restaurants in the area continue to violate basic wage laws, resulting in low-wage workers being deprived of their hard-earned pay,” said James Schmidt, district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Tampa. “This case resulted in Sushi Alive paying the back wages and promising to comply with the FLSA in the future. It is an example of the Labor Department’s commitment to protecting vulnerable workers against exploitation and ensuring that law-abiding employers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage.”

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 per week. The FLSA permits an employer to take a tip credit toward its minimum wage obligation for tipped employees that is equal to the difference between the required cash wage, which must be at least $2.13 per hour, and the federal minimum wage. Employers may create a tip pooling or sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, but a valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs and janitors.

The investigation found that Sushi Alive required servers to share their tips with dishwashers, cooks and other kitchen staff employees who did not customarily earn tips, thereby invalidating the pool arrangement. Furthermore, the employer violated the law by deducting the cost of uniforms from servers’ paychecks, which reduced their wages below the federal minimum wage. The employer was required to reimburse all tips that were shared improperly and to pay tipped employees the full minimum wage without any tip credit. Back wages of $53,038 for these minimum wage violations are being paid to 14 employees.

Sushi Alive also failed to keep accurate time and payroll records. In addition, servers who worked more than 40 hours in a week were not adequately compensated for overtime, as required under the FLSA. Back wages of $1,369 for overtime violations are being paid to eight of the 14 employees.

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