CHICAGO – Kitchen staff worked countless hours making authentic dishes like Banh Mi and Pho for a fixed salary while co-workers serving customers seeking Vietnamese cuisine at a popular Chicago restaurant often worked for tips only.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has recovered $697,295 in back wages for 60 employees following an investigation of Tank Noodle Inc. Investigators found the employer owed some workers more than $10,000 each in back wages and identified numerous violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. The agency also found the employer failed to keep accurate records of the number of hours employees worked, as the law requires. On Oct. 14, 2020, the division notified Tank Noodle Inc. that they were in violation of the FLSA. Tank Noodle Inc. signed an agreement to pay the back wages they owed on Dec. 7, 2020.
“This investigation recovered a considerable amount of back wages for 60 employees in an industry whose essential workers are often among the lowest paid in our society,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Thomas Gauza in Chicago. “Failing to accurately record the hours employees work does not prevent a federal investigation, the discovery of violations and ultimately, back wage recovery. This case shows that employers that attempt to gain an unfair competitive advantage by flouting the law will be held accountable.”
Investigators found the Northside restaurant employed some servers to work only for tips, failing to pay them any direct wages, as the law requires. Tank Noodle also shorted servers when the employer pooled tips each day, and divided them evenly among all staff, which illegally included management. The FLSA does not permit management to participate in tip pooling arrangements. Additionally, the restaurant violated overtime requirements when it paid some workers flat amounts per day, regardless of the number of hours that they worked. Doing so resulted in violations when those employees worked more than 40 hours per week but the employer failed to pay overtime.
The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, or confidential calls to local Wage and Hour Division offices. For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).