ROANOKE, Texas (NEXSTAR) — An audit of a barbecue business in Denton County, Texas, revealed the company failed to pay 910 workers their full tips and appropriate overtime pay – a total of $867,572 owed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division.
The department says Roanoke Hard Eight LLC, located in Roanoke, Texas, split tips between tipped employees and hourly managers, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, the department says hourly managers weren’t paid their correct time-and-a-half rates for overtime worked.
DOL says Roanoke Hard Eight LLC has “cooperated fully” with the investigation. Nexstar has reached out to Hard Eight but hasn’t heard back yet. Hard Eight BBQ Chief Operating Officer Matt Perry told NBC News the violation was a misunderstanding of 2019 changes to the Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which bars managers and employers from keeping tipped workers’ tips for any reason.
Perry said managers were originally included because they are as heavily involved as tipped workers are. The company said it made immediate changes once it became aware of the violations and gave managers a raise to adjust for the loss of tips.
DOL told Nexstar the business paid about 219 employees directly and disbursed the rest of the back wages to the department for employees they couldn’t locate. The DOL says it’s collected the money owed to these employees.
“Roanoke Hard Eight violated the law by including managers in their tip pool. By doing so, the employer denied tipped workers some of their tips and managers proper overtime wages,” explained Wage and Hour District Director Jesus A. Valdez in Dallas. “As businesses struggle to find people to do the work needed to keep operating, employers would be wise to avoid violations or risk finding it even more difficult to retain and recruit workers who can choose to seek jobs where they will receive all of their rightful wages.”
The Department of Labor says it’s actively looking for former Hard Eight employees who are owed money. It’s encouraging former employees to contact the department at (866) 487-9243 or at its Workers Owed Wages site.
Meanwhile, Perry told NBC News the company has been compliant since August 2021 and verified this once again with the department last week.
DOL says in situations like these, the amount of time a business has to fix the problem and repay its employees depends on the investigation and a number of variables. While DOL says it doesn’t disclose the nature of specific investigations or how they learn of potential violations, it says its Wage and Hour Division focuses on certain types of businesses and industries – particularly low-wage industries – because of high rates of violations and employment of vulnerable workers.