SEATTLE – Restaurant operators who fail to pay their typically low-wage workers all of their hard-earned wages and divert customers’ tips meant for those workers are underserving their employees and breaking the law.

A recent U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation of one Seattle-area restaurant owner’s operation has recovered a total of $53,903 in back wages for 22 workers after investigators found violations of the overtime requirements and the rules for paying tipped workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The division determined that when employees worked at more than one of the owner’s locations during a workweek, the employer failed to combine those hours when determining whether overtime was due. This resulted in violations when employees worked more than 40 hours total, but Rio Bravo paid for hours at each location separately, at straight-time rates. The employer also retained a portion of workers’ tips, which the FLSA prohibits.

“Working for the same employer at two or more locations should not deprive workers of overtime pay, nor should their tips ever be withheld,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Thomas Silva in Seattle. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to ensuring employees are paid the wages they have rightfully earned, and to prevent employers from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over those employers that comply with the law.”

For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.

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