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March 15, 2011
Houston Grocers Owe $2 Million in Pay, Penalties

Houston-based grocery stores Hong Land Corp., Hong Kong Group Inc., Pacific Ocean Enterprise, Inc., and B&B Corner Corp., all doing business as Hong Kong Market, and two store owners have agreed to pay $1.8 million in back wages plus penalties to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

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An investigation by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found that the companies failed to pay minimum wage and overtime wages due to nearly 400 workers, some of whom worked as many as 70 hours per week. In addition, the company falsified payroll records and coerced vulnerable workers to return wages earned, DOL found. In addition to back pay, the companies paid $200,000 in civil penalties for repeat and willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act because they were put on notice of similar violations in a prior investigation, DOL said.

“These employers disregarded our nation’s most basic labor laws,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “They exploited the vulnerability of hundreds of low-wage workers, and then deliberately misled investigators to try to keep them from finding out the truth.” Solis pledged to use all available tools to “secure full and fair compensation” for all workers and to “level the playing field for businesses that follow the rules.”

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