The operator of five franchise restaurants in Mississippi is going to have to pick up the tab, so to say. Apparently, employees were required to pay for their background checks, uniforms and safety training. As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has held them accountable to the tune of $114,427 in back wages, liquidated damages and civil penalties.
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division investigation discovered several violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, including:
- • Minimum wage violations when deductions for uniforms and background checks caused employees’ hourly rates to fall below the $7.25 an hour standard;
• Overtime violations when the employer’s deductions for training and background checks illegally decreased the rate-of-pay when workers earned overtime.
The DOL investigation led to the recovery of $51,674 in back wages and liquidated damages for 244 workers. But that was just the appetizer as the investagation also led to an assessment of $62,753 in penalties.
“Restaurant industry employees work hard and depend on every dollar earned to make ends meet,” said Wage and Hour District Director Audrey Hall. “The law prevents businesses from shifting operating costs to workers by deducting the costs of uniforms, cash register shortages or training expenses, or to allow a worker’s pay to fall below minimum wage.”
The investigation included Wingstop locations in Clarksdale, Tupelo, Starkville, Olive Branch and Oxford.
In 2021, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $34.7 million for more than 29,000 workers in the food service industry. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports near record numbers of job openings and workers in the food services industry quitting their jobs.
“Employers who do not respect their workers’ rights will likely struggle to retain and recruit the people they need to remain competitive, as workers look for opportunities with employers that do,” Hall added.