By: Louis M. Grossman

In September, the Department of Labor imposed significant fines against two Louisiana restaurants for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The iconic New Orleans Cajun-Creole restaurant Jacques-Imo’s paid more than $55,000 in fines for violating child labor laws under the FLSA; Superior Seafood paid out more than $230,000 in back wages and penalties.

Following an incident in which a 13 year old employee sustained third degree burns, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) audited Jacques-Imo’s restaurant and found it in violation of several Child Labor Law provisions.  First, the DOL found that the 13 year old employee sustained his injuries while cleaning a fryer when the oil temperature was in excess of 100 degrees.  Child Labor Laws prohibit minors from engaging in such dangerous work activities.  The DOL also found that the restaurant had allowed another minor to work hours beyond those permissible for children under the age of 16.

In the same month, news broke of another DOL audit of a local restaurant industry employer, Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar.  After an extensive audit of the company’s payroll practices and record-keeping, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division concluded that the company had failed to pay overtime to more than 220 employees.  Specifically, DOL concluded that Superior Seafood had failed to combine hours worked by employees who held more than one position for purposes of determining overtime pay – i.e., that an employee who worked 40 hours as a bartender and 20 as a waiter was not paid overtime.  The DOL also found that the company had falsified records and failed to include incentive bonuses in calculating overtime payments.

These recent DOL audit findings serve as a stark reminder to Louisiana’s thriving hospitality industry of the importance of compliance with wage payment laws and maintaining appropriate payroll records. Proper training as well as back of the house postings can remind management not to assign minor employees to dangerous tasks and to ensure that the work schedules of minors comply with federal law.  Instructing restaurant management and payroll personnel/vendors  regarding the need to cumulate all hours worked by employees during a workweek for payroll purposes and including productivity compensation in employee overtime calculations is also essential for properly compensating employees for all time worked, including overtime.

Learn more about Kean Miller’s Labor and Employment Practice.