$110,369 in Back Wages for Fair Labor Standard Act's Violations by Restaurant Company

Friday, November 2, 2012

Restaurant company 681 Complex Inc., doing business as NaBrasa Brazilian Steakhouse and Iron Abbey Gastro Pub in Horsham, has agreed to pay $110,369 in back wages to 42 workers that resulted from violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. The violations were discovered during an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division of both restaurants, which are located in the same building and share a kitchen.

Investigators found that the employer improperly classified FLSA-covered employees working as meat carvers, also known as "gauchos," as exempt from overtime pay and consequently denied them proper compensation for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Additionally, several employees including dishwashers, line cooks and other kitchen staff were required to work long hours – often in excess of 60 per week – and were paid a fixed salary that did not include overtime pay or yield at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The employer also failed to maintain accurate records of employees' wages and work hours, as required.

"The employer incorrectly concluded that gauchos, because they train for six months to a year in the art of preparing and serving meats in the Brazilian tradition, qualified as professional employees and thus are exempt from overtime. Our investigators found that the duties of the gauchos are more dependent on skill and precision, rather than originality and talent. The professional exemption from overtime does not apply in this case," said Stewart Bostic, director of the division's Philadelphia District Office. "Employers have an obligation to properly classify and compensate workers for overtime hours, and employees work hard and trust their employers to pay them fair wages. Employers should not abuse this trust, and so must be thorough in analyzing and ensuring that their pay practices are in full compliance with the law."

Following this investigation, the employer agreed to pay all back wages due to the affected employees and to maintain future compliance with the FLSA.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked over 40 per week. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained.

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