DENVER – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $242,579 in back wages for 72 workers at a Westminster restaurant after investigators found the employer failed to pay the legally required minimum wage, illegally kept tips from its employees and denied workers overtime.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division reviewed the pay practices at Lychen Inc., operating as East Moon Asian Bistro, and determined the employer violated the FLSA tip regulations by retaining employee tips in an invalid tip pool in which managers were keeping tips for reasons other than redistributing to other non-tipped, non-managerial employees. Additionally, the employer violated overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act when they failed to pay workers proper overtime wages for hours over 40 in a workweek. Lychen also failed to keep accurate records of employees’ hours worked as required by law. 

Federal law forbids employers, managers and supervisors from taking tips from service workers for any reason, whether or not the employer takes a tip credit.

“Paying workers less than minimum wage is prohibited under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Charles Frasier in Denver. “Too often, food service industry workers fall victim to illegal pay practices that make it hard for them to provide for themselves and their families. Federal law requires employers to pay workers all their rightfully earned wages and benefits. The Wage and Hour Division is determined to recover back wages and protect these workers’ rights.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in food preparation and service occupations will grow 11 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations, and gain about 1.3 million jobs. These occupations are among the nation’s lowest paid groups. Employers who comply with labor laws  will have the greatest appeal to workers entering the workforce or looking for new job opportunities.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Workers can call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from. Calls are confidential and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.

Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices, now available in English and Spanish, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

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