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US Department of Labor finds Kauai restaurant assigned underaged workers hazardous kitchen duties, denied 18 workers overtime pay

HONOLULU – The U.S. Department of Labor has found a Kauai restaurant allowed eight minors, some as young as 15-years-old, to cook and bake in violation of federal laws that prohibit employers from assigning hazardous occupations to underage employees, and denied overtime wages to 18 employees.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigation found Tahiti Nui Enterprises Inc. – operating as Tahiti Nui – also permitted the minors to work beyond the hours federal law permits. The Polynesian-style restaurant also failed to pay 18 employees required overtime rates for hours over 40 hours in a workweek. These actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The investigation led to the division’s recovery of $11,181 in back wages and liquidated damages for the workers denied overtime. The division also assessed Tahiti Nui with $26,355 in civil money penalties for its child labor violations and reckless disregard of the FLSA’s overtime requirements.

“As employers expand their use of young workers in 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 FLSA prohibits 14- and 15-year-old employees from working later than 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m., the remainder of the year. Additionally, they cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, 8 hours on a non-school day or more than 18-hours per school week.

In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that young workers aged 16-19 years old comprised nearly 12 per cent of the nation’s workforce. As businesses fill job openings with minors new to the workforce, employers must understand and comply with child labor rules. 

To assist employers and inform young workers and their parents, the division recently published “Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers.”

The division offers information for employers and for young workers, parents and educators about child labor to promote positive and safe work experiences for teens. Learn more about the division, including its search tool to learn if you are owed back wages collected by the division. For compliance assistance, call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free.