Feds recover nearly $243K in back wages from Westminster restaurant

Federal officials said they recovered $242,579 in back wages covering 72 workers at a Westminster restaurant after investigators determined the employer didn’t pay the legally required minimum wage, illegally kept employees’ tips and denied overtime.

The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday that Lychen Inc., operating as East Moon Asian Bistro, violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act when it failed to pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours in a work week. The business also didn’t keep accurate records of employees’ hours as required by law, the department said.

A review showed the restaurant violated regulations by keeping employee tips in an invalid pool for reasons other than distributing them to non-tipped, non-managerial employees, according to the Labor Department.

The restaurant’s operator didn’t return a request for comment.

“Paying workers less than minimum wage is prohibited under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Wage and Hour Division District Director Charles Frasier in Denver said in a statement. “Too often, food service industry workers fall victim to illegal pay practices that make it hard for them to provide for themselves and their families.”

Workers can call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). The department said that calls are confidential and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.

Employment in food preparation and service occupations is projected to grow 11% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobs are among the lowest paid in the country, the bureau said.

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