Shorted employees get back pay

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 4, 2011 - 10:29 AM

Forty-one businesses paid their employees back wages in 2010 after the state said they violated pay and overtime laws, according to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

The department's Labor Standards Unit investigates complaints from workers who say they were stiffed by their employers. I asked the department to provide me with a list of closed wage and hour cases from January through mid-December. The list is ranked by the sum of back wages paid to employees.

All but one business listed here conducted a self-audit and paid back wages after being notified of violations. The department chose to audit CMZ Inc. rather than ask for a self-audit. The number of affected employees is in parentheses.

1 Pinnacle Technologies, Inc., Oakdale, $85,579

The installer of home satellite receiver systems deducted the cost of consumable supplies from employees' wages. (38)

2 Superior Satellite, Maplewood, $36,400

The installer of home satellite receiver systems was taking deductions for consumable supplies and uniforms. (81)

3 Hanabi Japanese Cuisine, Duluth, $17,723

The restaurant was taking 5 percent of employees' tip money to distribute to other employees. (10)

4 ABCO Fridley Auto Parts, Fridley, $15,597

The business was taking deductions for consumable supplies and uniforms. (123)

5 Divine Home Health Care, St. Paul, $11,182

Overtime was not being paid as required. (24)

6 Satellite Productions, doing business as the Craftsman Restaurant and Bar, Minneapolis, $10,443

The restaurant was paying employees less than minimum wage. (17)

7 POV's Sports Bar, Andover, $8,973

The bar was taking a tip credit and was paying employees less than minimum wage. (44)

8 MC of Hoyt Lakes, doing business as Vaughn's, Hoyt Lakes, $8,358

The restaurant was taking a tip credit and paying employees less than minimum wage. (12)

9 CMZ Inc., doing business as Creative Cuisine, Rochester, $8,122

The company, which manages several Rochester restaurants, was paying employees less than minimum wage. (23)

The Chap, Brainerd, $5,972

The restaurant and bar was paying employees less than minimum wage. (32)

Violations fell into the following categories.

CONSUMABLE SUPPLIES OR UNIFORMS

Consumable supplies are materials used up in the course of doing a job. Examples are office supplies, utility costs, chemicals and hair care products. With very few exceptions, employers may not deduct the costs of consumable supplies or uniforms. At no time can a deduction reduce a wage to below minimum.

TIP MONEY

According to state law, any gratuity received by or left for an employee is the sole property of the employee. The employee may share tips, but only on a voluntary basis. The state also prohibits tip credits, whereby an employer applies tips toward meeting their minimum-wage obligations.

MINIMUM WAGE

Most employees are entitled to receive minimum wage. Some exceptions are baby sitters, cabdrivers and elected officials. Minimum wage is set by both state and federal laws. Employees covered under both laws are entitled to the higher wage.

OVERTIME

State law requires employers to pay overtime when an employee works more than 48 hours in a seven-day period. Overtime pay must be at least 1 1/2 times the regular rate.

Federal law requires that some types of businesses pay overtime after 40 hours of work. These businesses include those involved in interstate commerce, large employers, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and government agencies.

Find more wage and hour information online at www.startribune.com/a80.

Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.

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