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March 05, 2003
100 Restaurant Workers to Share $665K in Back Wages
The U.S. Labor Department announced that settlements in lawsuits against eleven Chicago area Chinese-style buffet restaurants have been reached calling for recovery of back wages owed to workers for overtime pay and minimum wage violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

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"Our priority at the Department of Labor is to protect low-wage workers," says Timothy Reardon, regional administrator in Chicago for the department's Wage and Hour Division, "We will not hesitate to aggressively enforce the law."

The settlements include payment of over $665,000 for more than 100 workers employed in the eleven restaurants. Workers covered by the agreements were employed as busboys and kitchen help, some receiving less than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. Others worked as many as 66 hours per week without overtime pay.

"It is very important these matters were resolved in an expeditious manner so that we can begin the process of locating the workers and restoring their back pay as soon as possible," Reardon says. "Our experience in these matters also dictates that it's important to protect low wage workers from retaliation, whether it be in the form of dismissal or coercion to return their wages to the employer. The proposed judgments all contain a provision that no retaliation will take place. We consider this a significant achievement on behalf of the workers."

The Wage and Hour Division, part of the Employment Standards Administration of the Labor Department, enforces the FLSA. It requires that covered employees be paid the federal minimum wage of $5.15 and time and one-half their regular rate of pay for hours worked over forty in a single workweek. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

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