U.S. Labor Department renews bid to target food service industry wage-hour violations

Agency says infractions found in 85% of industry investigations

PunchclockThe U.S. Department of Labor has renewed a multi-year nationwide initiative to increase federal compliance by employers in the food service industry, an industry, which it says is rife with wage and hour violations.

According to the DOL, in the 2021 fiscal year, the department’s Wage and Hour Division found violations in nearly 85 percent of its restaurant investigations. Those investigations led the division to recover more than $34.7 million in back wages for more than 29,000 workers and to assess employers with $3.2 million in penalties.

The department said its food service initiative will combine enforcement with outreach and education to raise awareness of the types of pay practices and other actions by employers that most commonly violate the Fair Labor Standards Act and other federal labor laws. Such violations include those related to the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, tips, employing child labor and making illegal wage deductions.

The department recently published new resources addressing retaliation against employees who assert their workplace rights or cooperate with investigations by the Wage and Hour Division. Retaliation by employers often prevents the workers from exercising their workplace rights under the FLSA, which ensures they are paid the wages they are owed.

Jessica Looman, acting administrator the Wage and Hour Division, said her agency’s investigators “find far too many employers are denying employees their rightful wages or violating other legal protections, making it much more difficult for these workers to make ends meet.”

She added that the new initiative will focus on “combating retaliation by employers against workers who report violations, or who cooperate with federal investigations, a troubling aspect of some of our investigations.”

Workers and employers can call the division confidentially with questions at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

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