The U.S. Department of Labor ensures that employees are paid according to federal law. In cases where there are many employees affected by the actions of an employer who doesn't abide by federal wage and hour laws, the DOL can file suit against the erring employer. That is exactly what happened in a shocking case out of Ohio.
The suit was filed on behalf of 34 employees who worked for a restaurant called Senor Panchos. The restaurant is owned by Arriaga Inc. and an investigation by the DOL's Wage and Hour Division found that the company repeatedly violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The allegations in the lawsuit include that the employees are owned more than $272,000 in back wages. The servers in the restaurant did not receive much of a wage. They were instead made to rely on their tips for their pay. This amount did not add up to meet the $7.25 an hour minimum wage for some employees during a workweek. Other allegations include the kitchen staff working for a salary, but not earning minimum wage for the hours they put in on the job. No overtime was paid for those hours above 40 a week, which is required by the FLSA. Finally, pay checks often bounced.
The DOJ wants the back wages paid to the employees that were affected.
While this case didn't happen in California, it does underscore the need for vigilance when it comes to employee wages. There are many low-wage employees who simply accept a lower-than-expected paycheck or the failure to pay overtime. There are other avenues for pursuing complaints against your employee for wage and hour violations, although filing a complaint with the DOL does work. An attorney with experience in employment law can advise you of your rights and options, inducing those surrounding misclassification. You are guaranteed certain things by law as an employee - an attorney can ensure you receive them.
Source: norwalkreflector.com, "Government sues restaurant and its manager, seeks more than $272,000 in back pay for low-wage workers" No author given, Sep. 06, 2013