The US Department of Labor's Wage and Labor Division has been collecting back wages and issuing civil monetary penalties to more than 60 Austin restaurants that have not paid workers proper wages during the last fiscal year.
The list of restaurants who received violations from the DOL include 11 Austin's Pizza locations, three Brooklyn Pie Company locations, South Congress Cafe and The Park at South Lamar, according to public records in the DOL database.
In most of the Austin cases, employers were either unknowingly or knowingly violating the Fair Standards Labor Law, DOL Wage and Labor Division Administrator David Weil said in a news conference today. Workers were unknowingly being paid unfairly; or workers were aware of the violations but had a fear of retaliation from the business owners, he said.
The Austin restaurant cases considered closed means business owners have signed agreements with the DOL and repaid workers the wages that were previously unpaid.
Weil called this "troubling" in a city where the restaurant scene is "very active."
"One would hope that a reputation for great restaurants should be a reputation for great labor standards, and we don't see that right now," he said.
He said many restaurants were in violation of only paying workers tips instead of the federally-mandated $7.25 an hour minimum wage. More than $300,000 in back wages—the amount recovered for more than 500 Austin restaurant workers—is about two to two-and-a-half weeks of pay for a low-wage worker, according to Weil.
He said the restaurant industry makes up 12 percent of employers in Texas, compared to around 10 percent nationally.
Yesterday, the DOL announced 95 percent of Austin restaurants investigated between Oct. 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, compared to 80-85 percent nationally, Weil said.
"This is not a big game of 'gotcha' we're engaged in," Weil said, explaining the DOL Wage and Hour Division has been engaging in outreach efforts to educate restaurant owners and workers about their wage rights.
The DOL did a similar investigation in Austin last fiscal year and found 98 percent of restaurants were in violation of the law.
Lucy Garcia, the department's community outreach and resource planning specialist, said the DOL sometimes does followup investigations to verify restaurants are meeting the wage requirements.
The Greater Austin Restaurant Association and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce have not responded to requests for comment.
Austin restaurants with violations between Oct. 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016*
- Austin’s Pizza, 11 violations, 1817 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 3 violations, 3537 Far West Blvd., Ste. A, Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 11 violations, 3601 William Cannon Drive, Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 10 violations, 9900 S. IH-35, Austin
- Austin Pizza, 22 violations, 10900 Research Blvd., Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 2 violations, 1600 W. 35th St., Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 9 violations, 1705 N. Cuernavaca Drive, Ste. 100, Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 16 violations, 3638 Bee Cave Rd., Ste. 104, Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 32 violations, 2324 Guadalupe St., Ste. 26, Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 20 violations, 7301 N. RR 620, Ste. 140, Austin
- Austin’s Pizza, 6 violations, 2800 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste. 130, Cedar Park
- Brooklyn Pie Company, 6 violations, 9500 S. IH-35, Austin
- Brooklyn Pie Company, 2 violations, 12601 Tech Ridge Blvd., Ste. 300
- Brooklyn Pie Company, 2 violations, 5425 Burnet Road, Ste. 110, Austin
- China Hill, 1 violation, 2800 W. William Cannon Drive, Austin
- Hai Ky, 1 violation, 3808 Spicewood Springs Road, Austin
- La Catedral Del Marisco, 16 violations, 1605 E. Oltorf St., Austin
- South Congress Café, 6 violations, 1600 S. Congress Ave., Austin
- The Park at South Lamar, 277 violations, 4024 South Lamar Blvd., Austin
*This is a partial list. According to the DOL, many cases remain open and may not be in the department database, which is public record.