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Udupi Palace workers win $112k damages for underpayment

Multiple outlets of an Indian-cuisine restaurant chain were slapped with more than $112,000 in fines, to be handed over to their staff whom they “deliberately” underpaid, and in some cases did not pay at all, according to the prosecuting federal agency, the U.S. Department of Labour (DOL).

In a statement the DOL said that Udupi Palace restaurants in San Francisco and Berkeley violated the federal Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) by not paying workers overtime and the minimum wage to at least one worker, and ordered that the restaurant shell out to eight kitchen workers $56,288 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.

The pay practices of the chain have been under the scanner of DOL investigators of the Wage and Hour Division since 2011, and “rampant overtime violations” were discovered, the agency said.

In an email comment to The Hindu Jose Carnevali, Deputy Regional Director of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labour in San Francisco said, “Investigators found some employees at the Udupi Palace locations routinely worked up to 60 hours per week with no overtime pay. In fact, one employee at the Berkeley eatery worked for no pay. The employer claimed the unpaid employee was in training.”

The U.S. government has frequently come down hard upon violations of minimum wage standards, and recent notable case of this was the alleged underpayment of salary to a domestic employee in 2013 by Devyani Khobragade, former Indian Deputy Consul in New York, who was then arrested for visa fraud.

In the Udupi Palace case, “Hard-working employees will finally get paid the overtime owed to them in the past three years,” said Susana Blanco, a DOL Director in San Francisco, adding, “These employees worked long hours to support themselves and their families. Denying them wages they rightfully earned made paying the rent and putting food on the table more difficult.”

DOL officials charged the Udipi Palace chain with ignoring “an important, well-known 1938 rule that requires time and one-half wages be paid when staff work more than 40 hours in a workweek.”

Under the U.S. FLSA employees must be paid at least the Obama-mandated, federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week.

The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, another condition that Udipi Palace was said to have violated.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 7:02:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/udupi-palace-workers-win-112k-damages-for-underpayment/article6934093.ece

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