(The Daily Advertiser) – Three Cajun food retailers — Don’s Specialty Meats, The Best Stop Supermarket and Romero’s Grocery — have been ordered to pay more than $500,000 for Fair Labor Standards Act violations.
The news comes just nine months after another Cajun food business — Billy’s Boudin & Cracklins — was ordered to pay more than $130,000 for violating labor laws.
Investigators with the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found more than $571,000 in back wages, liquidated damages and penalties from the food retailers, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Here’s a breakdown by business:
- Don’s Specialty Meats: Will pay $480,313 in back wages and liquidated damages to 133 workers.
- The Best Stop Supermarket: Has paid $56,386 in back wages and liquidated damages to 36 workers. The employer was also assessed $10,819 in civil money penalties for willful violations.
- Romero’s Grocery: Has paid $35,053 in back wages and liquidated damages to 33 workers. The employer was also assessed $3,927 in civil money penalties for willful violations.
The Cajun food retailers violated labor law by:
- Failing to pay workers for all hours they worked, including 15 minutes spent before and after scheduled shifts counting cash drawers.
- Deducting wages from workers’ pay illegally for cash register shortages which effectively brought their wages below the required federal minimum wage.
- Paying straight time rates, in cash “off the books,” for overtime hours worked.
Don’s Specialty Meats made illegal pre-employment arrangements with workers to only pay for a specified number of hours on payroll checks and to pay for the remainder of their hours in cash, all at the workers’ regular hourly rates, even if overtime was worked.
Romero’s Grocery, operating as SHYY Inc., disguised wage payments as “reimbursements” to employees to avoid paying overtime and provided federal investigators with falsified time records to falsely show they had paid workers as required by federal law.
Investigators determined that the violations committed by The Best Stop and Romero’s Grocery were willful, prompting them to extend the period of time covered by the investigation.
In addition to paying back wages, liquidated damages and penalties, all three employers entered into enhanced compliance agreements with the department to resolve the investigations. They agreed to provide annual training for managers on complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to provide FLSA handy reference guides to employees at the time of hire, among other terms.