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US Department of Labor recovers $153K for 17 shortchanged workers after investigation uncovers half-baked overtime policies, child labor violations

HONOLULU – A federal investigation recovered $153,070 in back wages and liquidated damages for 17 workers of a Honolulu bakery and café whose operator denied them their overtime wages and endangered the safety of minor-aged workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined that Patisserie La Palme D’or – owned by Hiromi Tanaka – attempted to evade overtime obligations by identifying six pastry chefs as managers. The employer failed to pay them overtime wages for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Tanaka also failed to pay several employees at least the federal minimum wage as required. These actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Investigators also found the employer allowed minor-aged workers to load and operate a trash compactor, in violation of the FLSA’s hazardous labor provisions for young workers.

In addition to the back wages and damages, the department assessed Patisserie La Palme D’or with $34,960 in civil money penalties for the willful nature of their violations.

“Employers are legally obligated to pay most workers the federal minimum wage and overtime. They cannot avoid paying overtime by simply giving their workers the title of manager,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Terence Trotter in Honolulu. “La Palme D’or failed to pay workers as required and did not provide a safe workplace for minor employees. Consequently, they will pay back wages, damages and penalties.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 958,000 food and accommodation services workers left their positions in December 2021. BLS also projects about 41,400 openings for food service managers each year, on average, from 2020 to 2030.

“As food service industry employers struggle to find workers, employers whose pay practices comply with the law have an advantage and can attract and retain workers. Those who shortchange workers will likely find themselves without the people they need to succeed,” Trotter added.

Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions regardless of their immigration status. The department can speak with callers confidentially in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, and its search tool if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.