Two restaurants in Boston ordered to pay $210,000 in back wages and penalties

And another North Carolina operator must also pay more than $157,000 to 65 workers following a U.S. Labor Department investigation.
Last year, the Labor department recovered more than $34.7 million for foodservice workers. /Photograph: Shutterstock.

Two Boston restaurants were ordered by a federal court to pay $195,680 in back wages and liquidated damages for failing to pay minimum wage and overtime compensation, Labor department officials said this week.

In addition, a North Carolina-based restaurant group must pay $157,287 in back wages to 65 workers following a Labor department investigation that found the employer kept portions of workers’ tips.

In Boston, a DOL Wage and Hour division investigation found that the restaurants Simco’s Roslindale and Simco’s Mattapan, both owned by Denise and Evangelos Fotopoulos, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay the federal minimum wage, not paying overtime and keeping inaccurate records.

The restaurants were ordered to pay $97,840 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The department also levied a $14,980 civil penalty.

In North Carolina, Goldsboro, N.C.-based Mugen Inc., which operates the concept Jay’s Kitchen, violated the FLSA by keeping a percentage of tips, the U.S. Department of Labor said this week. By doing so, the employer lost the right to claim a tip credit and owed the workers the difference between their paid cash wage and the federal minimum wage.

Investigators also said Mugen allowed three 15-year-old staff members to work longer than is permitted while school is in session, which is a violation of federal child labor laws. That triggered a $1,915 penalty.

And Mugen also failed to keep an accurate record of hours worked, provide the dates of birth for employees under age 19 and keep addresses for several employees, which are all FLSA record keeping violations, investigators said.

“Tipped workers in the food services industry rely on their hard-earned tips to make ends meet. Tips are the property of the worker and, under no circumstances, may employers keep any part of their employees’ tips,” said Richard Blaylock, wage and hour division district director, in a statement.

In addition to Jay’s Kitchen, the restaurant group also operates Jay’s Sushi & Burger Bar, two units of Ninja Hibachi Express, Ninja Grill, Ninja Hibachi & Burger, and Jay’s 108. According to the group’s website, the family of restaurants, co-founded by Jay Shin, focus on Asian American fusion cuisine.

Neither of the restaurant operators immediately responded to requests for comment.

The Labor department’s wage and hour division has assessed more than $1 million in penalties and identified child labor violations in nearly 200 foodservice industry investigations over the past two years, Blaylock said.

And in fiscal 2021, the division recovered more than $34.7 million for more than 29,000 foodservice workers.

With the foodservice industry struggling to find labor, employers should take heed, Blaylock added.

“Employers who do not respect their workers’ rights will likely struggle to retain and recruit the people they need to remain competitive, as workers look for opportunities with employers that do,” he said.

UPDATE: This article was updated with new information.

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