Atlanta-area Restaurant to Pay $411k for Stiffing Employees

Written by The Atlanta Daily World

After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, the operator of an Atlanta-area restaurant enterprise will pay $411,010 in back wages to 157 employees at locations in Doraville and Duluth, Georgia, for violating minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

WHD investigators found La Abuela LLC in Doraville, and La Abuela II LLC, La Abuela III LLC and La Abuela IV LLC in Duluth – incorrectly classified employees as independent contractors, leading to numerous violations. The restaurant operator violated FLSA overtime requirements by paying straight-time rates for all the hours employees worked, failing to pay overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. The employer also failed to combine hours employees worked between multiple establishments owned by the business in a single workweek when determining whether overtime was due.

Additional violations resulted from the employer’s practice of requiring tipped employees to perform cleaning tasks off the clock, failing to record or pay for that time. The employer also made illegal deductions from tipped employees’ pay to account for incorrect orders and customer walkouts, resulting in FLSA violations when the deductions caused the employees’ hourly wages to fall below the federal minimum wage. In addition, the employer violated FLSA recordkeeping requirements when it failed to record all the hours employees worked, deductions it made from employees’ pay, and the amounts of cash tips claimed by tipped employees.

“Employers must ensure that their employees are paid all the wages they have legally earned. This includes combining their hours when they work across multiple establishments and paying overtime when due,” said Wage and Hour Division Acting District Director Derrick Witherspoon, in Atlanta, Georgia. “This case serves as an excellent reminder for restaurant employers to review their pay practices so that they can avoid costly violations like those found in this investigation.”

The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, confidential calls, or in-person visits to local WHD offices.

For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers who discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.

WHD’s mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

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