2 Bay Area restaurants pay more than $112,000 in back wages to employees

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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Two restaurants in Berkeley and San Francisco have paid more than $112,000 in back wages and damages after a year-long investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the restaurants did not compensate employees for overtime work.

The two Udupi Palace restaurants had “rampant overtime violations” of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, by not paying overtime wages to eight kitchen employees, dating back to 2011, according to a news release by the department last week. Some employees routinely worked up to 60 hours per week with no overtime pay or, in one case, with no pay at all.

“Udupi Palace’s hard-working employees will finally get paid the overtime owed to them in the past three years,” said Susana Blanco, the department’s wage and hour division director in San Francisco, in the news release.

Celeste Hale, the assistant district director of the labor wage and hours division in San Francisco, could not disclose specific information about the investigation but said investigations usually include interviewing employees, looking at records and occasionally conducting surveillance.

“We have a very good collection rate, because oftentimes they (the establishment) know they have violated the law, and they know there are employees that they haven’t paid,” Hale said.

A representative of the Udupi Palace restaurants could not be reached after multiple requests for comment.

Employees have been paid $56,288 in back wages as per Berkeley and San Francisco minimum wage laws, which are significantly higher than federal laws, according to Hale. The employees were also awarded an equal amount in liquidated damages.

The FLSA requires employees to be paid at least a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for time worked, plus time and a half for work beyond 40 hours a week. The state minimum wage is $9 per hour, and minimum wage in Berkeley and San Francisco is $10 per hour and $11.05 per hour, respectively.

Both restaurants are still open and operating at 1901-03 University Avenue in Berkeley and 1007 ½ Valencia Street in San Francisco. Hale could not disclose whether the compensated employees are still working at the restaurants.

Hale hopes that efforts similar to the investigation of the Udupi Palace restaurants by the department will shed light on negative practices in various other industries and send a message about violating federal laws.

“We’re out there, so you could be next,” Hale said.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ayoonhendricks.