Kentucky restaurant pays back $52,805 after employees made to work for tips only, no wages

Published 5:36 am Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Thirty three workers at a Bowling Green restaurant have received all of the wages they earned legally after a federal investigation recovered $52,805 in back wages denied to them by their employer’s illegal pay practices.

A U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation found Hibachi Grill Inc. ­­– operating as Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet­­ – paid tipped employees no wages, requiring them to work only for tips.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay tipped workers at least $2.13 per hour in direct wages, and allows them to credit tips the workers receive toward the remainder of their minimum wage obligation. When the employer fails to pay any wages, as in this case, no credit is given for tips received and the workers are due the full federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour from the employer for every hour that they worked.

Hibachi Grill also failed to pay required overtime. The restaurant paid kitchen helpers, dishwashers, cooks and other workers flat salaries, regardless of the number of hours that they worked. By doing so, the employer violated FLSA overtime provisions when these employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. In some cases, the salaries also failed to cover all the hours employees had worked at the minimum wage. Failure to keep records of the number of hours employees worked also resulted in recordkeeping violations.

“These essential workers deserve to take home every penny of their hard-earned wages and this case shows clearly how quickly back wages can accumulate when employers fail to follow federal wage laws,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Karen Garnett-Civils in Louisville, Kentucky. “When Hibachi Grill shorted its workers’ pay, their illegal actions gave them an unfair advantage over restaurant employers who play by the rules. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to enforcing the law so that employees keep what they earn, and that employers compete on a level playing field.”

For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). A compliance assistance toolkit is also available for restaurant employers. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.