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09 Sep 2015

DOL Files Suit Against Restaurant With “Volunteer” Employees

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AKRON, Ohio — According to a news report, the Department of Labor has sued Cathedral Buffet Inc. in Cuyahoga Falls for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). DOL is seeking more than $207,000 in back wages to more than 200 workers who were deprived of minimum wage and overtime pay. In addition to back pay, DOL is also seeking an equal amount in liquidated damages for the employees because of the willful nature of the violations.

“Volunteer” Employees and Minors

According to the suit, the restaurant improperly treated workers as “volunteers” and paid them no wages. These “volunteer” workers worked in the restaurant cooking, cleaning, waiting on tables, stocking and maintaining the buffet line, and as cashiers. Additionally, the restaurant allegedly employed two dining room attendants aged 14 and 15, in violation of the restricted hours for minors.

FLSA authorizes the Department of Labor to assess civil money penalties of up to $1,100 for a willful violation of the minimum wage and overtime requirements. To establish willfulness, the plaintiffs must prove that the employer knew it was in violation of FLSA or acted in reckless disregard as to whether it was in violation. The conduct has to be deliberate, voluntary, and intentional as opposed to inadvertent or accidental.

Additionally, under FLSA, minors 14 or 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs under certain parameters. Work hours for these minors are limited to three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, eight hours on a non-school day, and 40 hours in a non-school week. Additionally, they can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when they can work up to 9 p.m.

Salary Violations

The restaurant also allegedly failed to pay four managers salaries that met the federal minimum wage and did not pay them overtime. The employer misclassified these managers as exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Managers may be considered exempt under FLSA’s executive exemption if:

  • The employee is compensated on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week;
  • The employee’s primary duties are managing the business of the company, or managing a normally-recognized department or subdivision of the company;
  • The employee customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent; and
  • The employee has the authority to hire or fire other employees, or their suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion, or any other change of status of other employees must be given particular weight.

Most employees are covered by FLSA and should receive minimum wage and overtime. Employers who willfully refuse to pay employees as required by FLSA are liable for back pay and liquidated damages. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you feel that you have been deprived of your wage rights. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.

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