Restaurant Operators Ordered to Pay Back Wages, Damages

Li Jin Yang and Dong Lin, a wife and husband operating five Oriental Forest restaurants, headquartered in Grandville with locations across the western part of Michigan, have been ordered by a federal court judge to pay $2,030,430 in minimum wage and overtime pay and damages owed to 129 workers following an investigation by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (Solis v. Oriental Forest, CA # 1:07-CV-619).

"For those employers who take advantage of the most vulnerable workers in this country, the department will not hesitate to enforce federal law to the fullest extent possible," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "We are pleased that workers in this case will receive the back wages they have earned and deserve."

The court also ordered the business owners not to violate minimum wage and overtime pay laws in the future and to make no efforts to have employees return the back wages. The court found that $1,015,215 in back wages is owed, and ordered that an equal amount be paid to the 129 workers as liquidated damages.

DOL's investigation found violations at Oriental Forest locations in Grand Rapids, Plainfield Township, Wyoming, Grandville, and Newaygo, Mich., covering a three-year span that began in February 2004. Only the Grandville and Wyoming restaurants remain open and operated by the same owners.

The judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the department in federal district Court in Detroit, that alleged the business owners paid less than time and one-half workers' regular rates for hours over 40 in a single work week, paid them less than the federal minimum wage, and failed to keep adequate and accurate pay records. Payments to individual workers range from several hundred dollars to as much as $96,000.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, and time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week, unless an employee is exempt from overtime pay. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records. For more information, go to www.wagehour.dol.gov.

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