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South Florida restaurants targeted for violating labor laws

We have previously written that some employers will try to save money by cheating workers out of wages and benefits that they have earned and to which they are legally entitled under laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

According to a news release by the U.S. Department of Labor, investigations in 2011 revealed significant violations of the FLSA among South Florida's restaurant industry, specifically full-service buffet restaurants. Investigators from the agency's Wage and Hour Division found many problems including violations of minimum wage and overtime pay.

The director of the Wage and Hour Division's Miami office said: "Our ongoing enforcement efforts in South Florida's restaurant industry have revealed an alarming culture of noncompliance resulting from unlawful pay practices."

Investigative techniques included inspections of employment practices and payroll records, as well as interviews with employees. Many investigators from the division's Miami office are able to speak more than one language and are therefore able to interview employees who may have difficulty with English.

According to the press release, the Wage and Hour Division's enforcement initiative in South Florida has yielded the following results this year:

  • 34 completed investigations
  • Recovery of back wages for 271 restaurant employees totaling $667,704
  • Assessment of $14,520 in employer penalties stemming from FLSA violations that were classified as willful and/or repeated

Common employer violations included paying wages off the books, failing to pay minimum wage or overtime and falsifying the payroll and time records of employees.

Restaurant employees may not always be aware of their rights under the FLSA, especially if they are immigrants and/or do not speak English well. This is perhaps why investigators found such consistent and widespread noncompliance among South Florida's restaurant industry.

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Labor is able to serve as a safeguard, making sure that employees understand their rights and that dishonest employers are taken to task for exploiting workers.

Source:, "U.S. Labor Department initiative nets more than $682,000 in back wages, penalties for labor law violations affecting 271 South Florida restaurant workers," U.S. Labor Department press release, Dec. 2, 2011

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