The US Department of Labor reclaimed $320,000 in unpaid wages and compensatory damages for 59 workers at a restaurant located in the Fenway area of Boston.

A restaurant in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood has recently settled a case with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, paying a total of $320,000 to 59 current and former employees. The settlement was reached after an investigation found that the restaurant, SOJUba, had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The investigation revealed that the restaurant had failed to properly inform some workers of their cash wage and tip credit, as required by the FLSA. This resulted in some workers not receiving all of the tips they had earned. Additionally, certain workers were not paid the federal minimum wage due to the restaurant’s invalidation of their ability to take a tip credit. The FLSA allows employers to take a tip credit towards their minimum wage and overtime obligations for tipped employees, as long as they ensure that the employees receive enough tips and cash wages to equal at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation required by the FLSA.

The investigation also found that SOJUba did not pay front-of-the-house workers the minimum wage for all hours worked, did not properly pay overtime wages for hours worked over 40 in a work week, and did not maintain accurate payroll records. During the investigation, the restaurant also violated the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision by instructing workers on what to say to investigators.

As a result of the investigation, SOJUba has paid $147,500 in back wages and $147,500 in liquidated damages to the affected workers, as well as $25,000 in punitive damages for the retaliation. The back wages cover a period of three years, from August 2019 to August 2022. The restaurant has also paid $40,000 in civil money penalties to the U.S. Department of Labor due to the willful nature of the wage violations.

Wage and Hour Division District Director Carlos Matos in Boston stated that the Fair Labor Standards Act clearly outlines an employer’s responsibilities to pay proper minimum wage and overtime rates to employees, and prohibits employers from coercing workers or discouraging them from participating in an investigation. He also emphasized that the Department of Labor will actively pursue damages and penalties for employers who deliberately ignore the law’s requirements.

The Wage and Hour Division protects workers against retaliation and offers a search tool for workers who believe they may be owed back wages. Employers and workers can also call the division confidentially with questions, regardless of their immigration status. The department offers assistance in over 200 languages through their toll-free helpline, and has recently released a Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices in both English and Spanish.  

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