Chad Frasier, district director for the labor department's Wage and Hour Division in Denver, says that the restaurant industry has been targeted because of past performance by similar businesses. "The industry typically pays relatively low wages and employs workers who may not be aware of their rights under the FLSA, or how to complain when those rights are violated," he explains. "Many of them are recent immigrants to this country and may not speak English; some of them are simply young and new to the workforce."
According to Frasier, the labor department has found that restaurants have had problems keeping records, meeting minimum hourly wage, paying for overtime hours, and adhering to the child labor standards within the FLSA.
Over the year, the department "will seek to bring employers into compliance for the future and get back wages paid to workers where they are found due," says Frasier. "Even those workers who do not receive back wages will benefit by having a more informed employer and being more informed themselves."
The investigations could lead to better working conditions and better understanding of laws concerning employee-business relationships, he says, "by increasing both employers' and employees' knowledge of federal labor standards."
If businesses are found in violation of labor laws, they could be subject to fines as well as other legal actions. Frasier declined to comment on the status of the investigations, but suggests that employers consult Fact Sheet 44: Visits to Employers, which they can find here.