SALT LAKE CITY – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $502,609 in back wages and liquidated damages for 148 people employed by one of Utah’s largest Asian grocers after the agency filed suit to stop the employer from interfering with an investigation into employer’s compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Wage and Hour Division obtained a preliminary injunction against Chinatown Supermarket LLC for actively interfering with the Wage and Hour Division investigation by attempting to prevent investigators from interviewing employees and instructing employees to tell investigators that they did not work more than 40 hours per week.
The department also issued a subpoena to the company and its related business, Chinatown Wholesale LLC, to obtain documents about the companies’ pay practices. The documents showed that the employer only reported up to 80 hours in a pay period and paid a weekly bonus equivalent to straight time for overtime hours worked. By law, employers must pay time and one-half the regular rate of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.
In an April 21, 2023, consent judgment, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, required Chinatown Supermarket LLC and Chinatown Wholesale LLC to pay back wages and liquidated damages, and to comply with the FLSA or face additional consequences.
“Supermarket industry workers are often paid flat daily or weekly rates of pay and are deprived of their earned overtime pay. These workers depend on every dollar they earn to care for themselves and their families,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Betty Campbell in Dallas. “The Department of Labor will hold employers fully accountable to prevent future violations and make sure competitors are not undercut by illegal pay practices. Our work helps workers and employers who follow the law.”
The consent judgment required the employers to pay $251,305 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to the affected employees, and as well as $22,390 in civil money penalties for the overtime violations. The employer paid back wages in full in June 2023.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will work vigorously to protect workers when employers mistakenly think they can retaliate against them exercising their rights,” explained Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in Denver. “The department is dedicated to making sure workers are paid as required by federal law. No employee should fear their employer’s wrath for reporting pay concerns.”
Chinatown Supermarket LLC, a retail grocery store, and Chinatown Wholesale LLC, a wholesale grocery provider, are owned by the same individual. The enterprise sells grocery products imported from Asia.