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Kaua‘i restaurant Tahiti Nui fined for labor violations

LIHU‘E — North Shore restaurant Tahiti Nui was ordered to pay more than $37,000 in back wages, damages and penalties after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found they failed to pay overtime wages and violated youth labor laws.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigation found the restaurant allowed eight minors as young as 15 to do back-of-house work not permitted by federal law, and let them work beyond the allowed hours.

“As employers expand their use of young workers in the food-service industry, the U.S. Department of Labor works tirelessly to make certain that they meet their legal obligation to ensure the safety of these workers,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Terence Trotter in Honolulu. “A job should never jeopardize the safety, well-being or educational opportunities of young workers.”

The restaurant also failed to pay 18 employees required overtime rates for work done over the 40-hour work week.

The Department of Labor says these actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits 14- and 15-year-olds from working later than 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m. the remainder of the year.

Owner Nanea Marston said the youth workers at Tahiti Nui only made salads and pizzas, and there were “less than a handful of times” when they stayed past 7 p.m.

“We were unaware that they were not allowed to put pizzas in the pizza oven,” said Marston. “That was a mistake we just didn’t know enough about.”

Marston said she was unaware of the overtime violations as well.

“We have 63 employees, and the largest check in that $11,000 that we owed went to our head chef, who was on salary,” said Marston. “But because they accepted some tips, the investigator said their hours had to be counted as hourly wages. We didn’t know that salaried workers were not supposed to accept tips.”

Marston said they adjusted everything they were cited for, and the youth workers now only make salads.

The investigation led to the recovery of $11,181 in back wages and liquidated damages for the workers denied overtime, along with $26,355 in civil money penalties for youth labor violations and disregard of federal law relating to overtime requirements.

Jose Carnevali of the USDOL reported the Wage and Hour Division has received all of the back wages owed by Tahiti Nui.

The department has a verification process prior to the issuance of back wages. Workers who think they might be eligible can visit the Workers Owed Wages link to determine if they are owed wages and complete the verification process: dol.gov/agencies/whd/wow.

In March 2022, the Department of Labor recovered more than $62,000 in back wages and damages for 42 employees of Paco’s Tacos Cantina, which has four locations on Kaua‘i and one on O‘ahu.

Investigators found the restaurant owed workers more than $12,000 in overtime wages, and allowed a manager and others to claim more than $18,000 in tips earned by workers.

An Economic Policy Institute study estimates more than $15 billion is lost each year due to wage theft — when an employer fails to pay wages or provide employee benefits rightfully owed to an employee by contract or law, including overtime violations. This amounts to more than all stolen money in physical burglaries in the United States combined.

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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