Department of Labor has secured $184,000 in back pay and damages for 56 employees who were underpaid by a restaurant in Naples.

TAMPA, FL – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $184,139 in back wages and liquidated damages for 56 seasonal guest workers and U.S. workers of a Naples restaurant after finding multiple violations of federal nonimmigrant work program regulations and federal minimum wage and overtime regulations.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division found Sails Restaurant LLC violated provisions of the H-2B worker visa program by misrepresenting job requirements, including willfully misrepresenting access to high-paid server positions – suggesting unlimited earnings potential when instead no such job existed and promotional positions out of reach for many – and shifting a dining room attendant to another job as a construction laborer. The agency also found the employer:

– Imposed special experience requirements for H-2B workers to qualify for jobs.
– Failed to list all qualifications in the job order.
– Did not give proper notices related to job termination, denying H-2B workers U.S. work status rights.
– Improperly classified jobs or excluded job tasks on work orders.
– Failed to provide job orders or notify workers of their rights.
– Did not reimburse visa expenses for H-2B workers, despite being aware of the requirement.

The division assessed $53,536 in civil money penalties.

“Federal law protects nonimmigrant workers employed under the H-2B program, and Sails Restaurant – which has used the program before and is well aware of its requirements – violated those laws,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nicolas Ratmiroff in Tampa, Florida. “All workers, both U.S. and nonimmigrant workers, must be paid their lawfully earned wages.”

Investigators also found the employer illegally kept the tips of some H-2B and U.S. workers, failed to pay one worker their last paycheck and paid an incorrect overtime rate to tipped employees, all violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Hospitality and food industry employers must understand that regardless of whether the employer is taking a tip credit, employers are prohibited from keeping employee tips or requiring that an employee give their tips to the employer, a supervisor, or manager. The division has numerous resources available on our website and has staff available who are able to answer questions and provide compliance assistance to employers,” Ratmiroff added.

On Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT), the Wage and Hour Division will host a free webinar to educate employers in the hospitality industry of the requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act and H-2B provisions. Information related to requirements under Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Employment and Training Administration Office of Foreign Labor Certification will also be provided. The event is free but registration is required.

The federal H-2B visa program permits U.S. employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services. This program is designed to help employers fill temporary labor shortages, but it is important for employers to follow all regulations and treat their workers fairly. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to enforcing these laws and protecting the rights of all workers.  

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