FORT LEE, NJ – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered more than $300,000 in back wages and liquidated damages for 63 workers at a Fort Lee restaurant after an investigation found the employer’s pay practices violated federal minimum wage and overtime regulations.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined Aquarius Restaurant Group Corp. violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements by:

Paying employees a day rate, regardless of the number of hours they worked, which led to overtime violations.
Using checks and cash to pay a semi-monthly salary to kitchen staff.
Failing to pay tipped employees time-and-one-half the regular rate of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.
In addition to recovering $150,805 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, the division assessed $35,274 in civil money penalties for the willful nature of the employer’s violations. 

“Most people employed in the restaurant industry work long hours to support themselves and their families and they have the right to be paid all of their earned wages,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Paula Ruffin in Mountainside, New Jersey. “Aquarius Restaurant Group Corp. failed to fulfill their legal responsibilities and has faced the costly consequences for shortchanging their employees.”

The division’s Northeast Region is offering a free, virtual training event for employers, employees and worker advocates in the restaurant industry on May 17th from 10-11:30 a.m. EDT. Attendance is free, but registration required. Register for Food for Thought: Federal Labor Law Tips for the Restaurant Industry.

In fiscal year 2022, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $27.1 million for more than 22,000 workers in the food service industry. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported near record numbers of job openings and workers in the accommodations and food services industry quitting their jobs.  

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division. Workers and employers can call the division confidentially with questions at its toll-free number, 1-866-4-US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of their immigration status. The department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Workers and employers alike can help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free, which is available in English and Spanish.

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