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Saturday, July 26, 2014
Kashi fined $150K for under-paying workers

The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a series of consent judgments in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordering seven Long Island restaurants, including one in Rockville Centre, to pay a total of $1,693,507.22 to 363 low-wage workers, chiefly servers and kitchen employees. The restaurants will also pay $114,737.96 in civil money penalties and interest to the department for willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Investigations by the Long Island District Office of the department’s Wage and Hour Division found widespread violations by the restaurants of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements. Specifically, the employers engaged in unlawful activities, such as paying below the federal minimum wage, paying cash off-the-books, not paying overtime, illegal tip pools, failing to pay wages to certain employees and not keeping records of hours worked and wages paid to employees.

“These wage recoveries, damages and fines serve as notice that the underpayment of employees is unacceptable,” said Irv Miljoner, director of the division’s Long Island office. “We will use all available tools to identify and root out such labor violations and make whole the affected workers. The violations found during these investigations are, unfortunately, all too common in this industry. We plan to continue our enforcement effort in the Asian restaurant sector and other types of restaurants where underpayment cheats both employers and workers who follow the law.”

Kashi Sushi & Steakhouse in Rockville Centre has to pay nearly $150,000. Half of that is for back wages and interest for employees, and the rest is in damages and payments to the government.

The investigations were conducted under the Wage and Hour Division’s multiyear enforcement initiative, focused on strengthening labor compliance in Long Island’s restaurant industry. In addition to identifying wage violations and recovering money for underpaid workers, the initiative’s goal is to change industry behavior permanently to ensure proper compensation for all workers and a level playing field for all employers.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as time-and-a-half for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The FLSA provides that employers that violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for back wages and liquidated damages payable to the workers.

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