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Federal Investigation of China Inn Cafe Uncovers Many Alleged Wage and Overtime Violations


Just because an employee is paid a salary does not mean that the hours they work should go undocumented. If it turns out that the employee was paid less than minimum wage, or was not paid overtime when they do not qualify for any of the federal overtime exemptions, then proof of failure to properly track the hours the employee worked is all a plaintiff needs to prove that the employer knowingly and intentionally violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. If the court determines that the violation was willful and intentional, it can double the amount of penalties the company may be ordered to pay in the case.

Recently, H&W Inc., the owner of the restaurant China Inn Cafe, has been found guilty of knowingly and intentionally violating federal labor law. A federal investigation into the restaurant’s wage and hour practices revealed that the cooks were allegedly paid a set salary, regardless of how many hours they worked. The alleged result was that the cooks were ultimately paid less than minimum wage. Nor were they allegedly paid the proper overtime compensation when they worked overtime. Because they were making food using recipes they were given and were not inventing recipes for the restaurant, their jobs could not be considered eligible for the professional category of overtime exemption.

The investigation found that China Inn Cafe employees allegedly regularly worked overtime, averaging 66 hours per week. In addition to the restaurant’s cooks, the drivers and wait staff were also allegedly regularly made to work overtime without receiving the proper overtime compensation of one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for each hour of overtime that they worked. Additionally, accurate payment and time records, a requirement of the FLSA, allegedly were not kept for the drivers and wait staff.

According to the FLSA, employers are required to pay their tipped employees a minimum of $2.13 per hour. This is because it is assumed that the rest is made up in tips. However, if the amount the employee makes, including tips, does not reach the minimum of $7.25 per hour (the federal minimum wage), then the employer is required to make up the difference. This was allegedly not done for the wait staff of the China Inn Cafe.
After the recent federal investigation, the restaurant has been ordered to pay almost $107,000 in back wages to 14 employees.

According to the federal FLSA, an employee can only qualify for overtime exemption if they fill an administrative capacity (they provide direct administrative support to an executive), a professional capacity (their job requires a particular set of skills or training), or an executive capacity (they have one or more employees that they manage and that report directly to them). Other employees that may be exempt from the proper overtime compensation are: farm workers; employees of movie theaters; domestic service workers who live with their employer; announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non-metropolitan broadcasting stations; and auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft salespersons employed by non-manufacturing establishments.

The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Chipotle, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for misclassifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Schaumburg and Aurora. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Arlington Hts. and Mt. Prospect overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.