Labor Department and Chicken or the Egg Resolve Labor Violations

Mar 01, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The $768,000 in back wages and fines charged to The Chicken or the Egg in Beach Haven by the U.S. Department of Labor for overtime and visa violations occurred last year and has been paid, sources said.

The charges came forth after an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and they were made public Feb. 28 in a press release by the department.

“WHD investigators determined the employer violated  ...  overtime requirements when it failed to pay workers time-and-one-half when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek,” said the department. “Instead, the employer always recorded fewer than 40 hours on the payroll each week, regardless of the actual number of hours worked, and paid for overtime hours in cash.”

Restaurant owner Cramark Inc. “will pay $768,548 in back wages, liquidated damages, and penalties for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the labor provisions of the H-2B temporary visa program,” the press release said.

Asked by The SandPaper whether the statement “will pay” indicated that the company agreed to pay or was ordered to pay in the future, a Department of Labor spokeswoman said the money has already been paid.

“To clarify, the employer paid in full all back wages and liquidated damages, and the penalty,” said Joanna P. Hawkins, deputy regional director of the Labor Department’s Philadelphia Office of Public Affairs.

The payment involved 23 employees and a total of $359,077 in back wages, according to the department. Those employees were awarded the same amount of money in damages. Also, two H-2B visa employees (foreign temporary seasonal workers) would be paid a total of $7,792 in back wages as a result of the investigation.

Additionally, a civil penalty of $42,602 was assessed to the restaurant company.

The investigation also found violations of the H-2B visa program because the employer did not give each H-2B employee a written statement accurately listing that person’s total earnings each workweek in the pay period, said the department.

Additionally, three H-2B employees worked as bussers, although they were approved to work only in food preparation, under the employer’s official application for the temporary workers. “The employer paid these employees less than the prevailing wage rates required for H-2B workers in Ocean County, New Jersey,” said the Labor Department.

When contacted by The SandPaper, Chicken or the Egg co-owner Mark Cohen said the fines were paid last year, and he confirmed that the restaurant will reopen this spring after being closed for the winter.

“All I really have to say is that the DOL investigation was completed and resolved in mid-2018. Our entire staff is very excited to begin our 29th season on Thursday, April 18,” Cohen said.

Labor Department spokeswoman Hawkins would not say what prompted the investigation by the Wage and Hour Division.

“WHD does not typically disclose the reason for an investigation. Many are initiated by complaints,” said the website to which she referred the question.

“All complaints are confidential; the name of the worker and the nature of the complaint are not disclosable; whether a complaint exists may not be disclosed.”

Sometimes WHD selects certain types of businesses or industries for investigation, the department stated. “The WHD targets low-wage industries, for example, because of high rates of violations or egregious violations, the employment of vulnerable workers, or rapid changes in an industry such as growth or decline. Occasionally, a number of businesses in a specific geographic area will be examined.”

Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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