During the past year, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has stepped up enforcement nationwide at businesses that it deems “low wage” employers, including restaurants. The DOL will focus on compliance with minimum wage, overtime, tip pooling, record keeping, and child labor laws. In Los Angeles, the DOL has already begun unannounced investigations and has filed a lawsuit against a local Thai restaurant chain. The same is true across the country. 

Since 2006, the DOL’s Los Angeles office has found federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) violations at 72 percent of the restaurants it investigated, awarding more than $2.2 million in minimum and overtime wages owed to over 1400 workers. Investigators pursue corrective action when violations are discovered, including back wages, penalties, liquidated damages and possible litigation. The DOL plans to make public information regarding investigations and violations, using the DOL’s enforcement database available here, and also via the “Eat Shop Sleep” smartphone application, which can be found on the DOL’s webpage.

Kimchi Bui, Director of the DOL’s Los Angeles District Office said that “Los Angeles [restaurants] employ a disproportionate number of immigrant workers who are especially vulnerable to illegal business practices such as unfair treatment and disparate wages. Our goal is to protect worker while making sure that law-abiding restaurant employers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by those that break the law.”

Best Practices

Employers should contact counsel to consider a self-audit to ensure compliance with both the FLSA and state wage and hour laws. California employers should also do a wage-hour “tune-up” to ensure compliance with this month’s decision by the California Supreme Court in the Brinker Restaurant case. 

For more information, contact: