PORTLAND, OR – The U.S. Department of Labor enforces laws that protect workers’ rights. It also holds unscrupulous employers who shortchange their workers accountable, as it has done on behalf of 118 workers at three Oregon restaurants after an investigation revealed wage theft and other violations.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division found the operators of KKOKI Korean BBQ restaurants in Portland, Eugene and Salem withheld tips earned by workers, allowed managers to take a portion workers’ tips and paid overtime wages only when workers exceeded 86 hours per pay period instead of after 40 hours per week as the Fair Labor Standards Act requires. The employer also failed to keep accurate employee records.

The investigation led to a total recovery of $169,728, representing $84,864 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. In addition, the division assessed $30,199 in penalties for the willful nature of the employer’s violations.

“Restaurant industry workers are paid some of the country’s lowest wages, yet many put themselves at risk throughout the pandemic to serve their customers and help employers keep their businesses open,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland, Oregon. “Wage theft, like that found in this case, hurts these essential workers and their families. Business owners must understand that violations can limit their ability to recruit and retain the people who do these jobs. As we’ve seen, the pandemic has prompted many restaurant industry workers to find employment that better suits their needs and find jobs with employers who will pay them all the wages they have earned.”

In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division conducted 4,237 investigations in the food service industry, recovering $34.7 million in back wages for more than 29,000 employees nationwide.

The division enforces the law regardless of a worker’s immigration status and can speak confidentially with callers in more than 200 languages. For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). 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.

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