Ann Arbor Chinese restaurant Gourmet Garden must pay employees $116,000 in back wages to 18 employees. A U.S. Department of Labor investigation uncovered evidence that the employer failed to meet federal and state minimum wage requirements for cooks and tipped staff and required them to participate in an illegal tip sharing agreement, according to a release. The Department of Labor contends that "the firm had employees working as many as 60 hours per week and failed to pay legally mandated overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, and failed to keep legally required time and payroll records."
A spokeswoman for the restaurant owner, Shougi Son, tells MLive the investigation resulted from complaints filed by two waiters. Michigan's minimum wage is $8.15 per hour, but employers can pay tipped workers $3.10 per hour if tips are well documented. The spokeswoman for Gourmet Garden contends that the Department of Labor's findings resulted from the failure of the owner to keep track of tips.
In addition to paying back employees, Gourmet Garden must also install new timekeeping systems, change their payroll system to semi-monthly or bi-monthly, train workers in their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and display information about workers rights in language staff can understand.
"Failure to pay legally required minimum wage and overtime poses a serious problem to workers who, in many cases, are already struggling to get by, and also undercuts those employers that choose to obey the law and pay their workers properly," Timolin Mitchell, director of the Department of Labor's Detroit Wage and Hour Division says. "The hospitality industry needs to do more to ensure compliance with Wage and Hour rules."
Update, 06/16, 12:41 p.m.: In an update on the investigations of restaurants in Ann Arbor, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it has identified six additional restaurants in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. All together employees were owed approximately $29,600 in back wages in addition to the $110,000 owed to employees at Gourmet Garden. The violations occurred at Tomukun Korean Barbeque, Holiday's Restaurant, La Marsa Mediterranean Cuisine, Ahmo's Gyros & Deli, Uptown Coney Island, and Uptown/Main Street Coney Island & Restaurant. The Wages and Hours Division has headed the initiative and is working with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan to better assist employees and workers in navigating wage issues.