Feds: Miyo's chain didn't pay OT, will pay $44k in back wages - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Miyo's responds to back wage fines: "We made a mistake, we owned it"


The owner of a chain of seven Columbia area Miyo's restaurants says she learned a lot during the U.S. Department of Labor investigation that ended with the company agreeing to pay 97 employees $44,441 in back wages.

Michelle Wang sent WIS a statement on Friday stating that she has resolved all of the problems reported by federal authorities.

"Our attitude is simple: we made the mistake, we owned it -- it has been done and paid for by 9/12," wrote Wang. "We knew what were the causes of problems, and we got them resolved--- our labor has been much better managed than ever!"

The investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions. These violations were disclosed at the following Columbia locations: Miyo's South Main Street; M Café Sumter Street; M Vista Lady Drive; Miyo's Forest Drive; Miyo's Fashion Drive; and Miyo's on East Bower Parkway and Sunset Boulevard in Lexington.

"At all seven Miyo's restaurant locations we found many low-wage employees working long hours, without any overtime compensation, and at times earning wages far below the federal minimum wage." said Michelle Garvey, director of the division's Columbia office. "Unfortunately, these types of labor violations are all too common in the restaurant industry,"

Investigators from the division's Columbia District Office conducted employee interviews, reviewed time and payroll records and examined employment practices to assess compliance with all applicable labor standards. The investigations disclosed violations at all seven restaurants that resulted from the employer's failure to properly record and compensate employees for all work hours, officials said.

Investigations found that restaurant employees often worked in excess of 40 hours a week without any overtime compensation.  Many kitchen staff employees were improperly classified as exempt from overtime pay and were paid a fixed monthly salary—without regard to the actual amount of hours worked—that, in several instances, amounted to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Additionally, tipped employees, such as servers, hosts and bartenders, were paid wages in violation of the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime provisions. The employer also failed to maintain accurate records of employees' work hours and wages, as required.

In addition to paying the back wages owed in this case, the chain of restaurants agreed to maintain future compliance with the FLSA by keeping accurate records of employees' work hours, wages and other required employment information; paying all employees at least the federal minimum wage; and providing overtime compensation and informing employees in advance that the tip credit will be used.

The investigations were conducted under the division's multiyear enforcement initiative focused on the restaurant industry in South Carolina, where widespread noncompliance with FLSA's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions has been found. Since fiscal year 2009, the agency's Columbia District Office has concluded more than 300 restaurant investigations, resulting in the recovery of more than $2.5 million in back wages for more than 2,500 workers.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. In accordance with the FLSA, an employer of a tipped employee is required to pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages, provided that amount plus tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's direct wages do not equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Employers also are required to provide employees notice of the FLSA tip credit provisions, maintain accurate time and payroll records, and comply with restrictions that apply to workers under age 18.

Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the department is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/search. Publicly available enforcement data are available through the free mobile application "Eat Shop Sleep," which enables consumers, employees and other members of the public to check if a hotel, restaurant or retail location has been investigated by the Wage and Hour Division and whether FLSA violations were found. The app is available at https://sites.google.com/site/eatshopsleepdol.

For more information about FLSA and other federal labor laws, call the division's toll-free help line at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Columbia office at 803-765-5981. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.    

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