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Wage and Hour Law: DOL Recovers More than $165,000 in Back Wages for Massachusetts Restaurant Workers

On November 15th, 2021, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the recovery of $165,000 in financial compensation for more than 70 restaurant workers in Massachusetts. Three restaurants owned by one individual were cited for failure to pay overtime wages to workers in violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Here, our Springfield wage and hour lawyer provides a more comprehensive review of the DOL’s enforcement action. 

Massachusetts Restaurants Cited for Willful Overtime Violations

The DOL initiated a wage and hour investigation into the practices of Massachusetts restaurateur Wan Feng Ye. Two of the restaurants he owns are located in Middlesex County and one is located in Essex County. The investigation by the DOL determined that wage and hour violations occurred at all three restaurants between January of 2017 and August of 2020. 

Federal regulators determined that the Massachusetts restaurant owners willfully violated wage and hour law. At all of the restaurants, employers were paid straight-time wages, even when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. In total, the DOL recovered more than $165,000 in unpaid overtime wages for affected employees. Additionally, the employers will pay $77,000 in civil fines. 

Additional Sanctions for Employers that Willfully Violate the FLSA

Through an unpaid overtime claim, affected workers have the right to seek financial compensation for the full extent of the wages that they should have been paid if their employer complied with federal law. Notably, the FLSA also allows for the imposition of additional financial penalties against employers that knowingly and willfully violate the wage and hour requirements of the FLSA. In this case, the three Massachusetts restaurants were ordered to pay a collective $77,000 in financial penalties due to the willful nature of the wage and hour violations. 

FLSA: Longer Statute of Limitations for Cases Involving Willful Violations

The FLSA generally requires an employee to file an unpaid overtime claim within two years of the date of the violation. Unlike some other employment law matters, the statute of limitations does not reset with each additional violation—meaning an employee can only seek compensation for the previous two years of wage and hour violations once they file an unpaid overtime claim. 

However, there is an exception for cases involving willful violations of the FLSA. When an employer willfully violates their responsibilities under the FLSA, the employee is entitled to a three year statute of limitations. In other words, they can recover for three years worth of unpaid overtime. In this case, employees were able to look back an additional year because the violation was willful. 

Contact Our Massachusetts Wage and Hour Lawyers for Immediate Help With Your Case

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Massachusetts wage and hour attorneys are skilled, effective advocates for restaurant workers. If you were unfairly denied overtime pay by your employer, we are here to help you navigate the claims process, so that you can get the full and fair overtime wages you earned. Contact us today for a strictly confidential initial consultation.