Chinatown Supermarket pays more than $525,000 in back wages, damages and penalties after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation.
Chinatown Supermarket LLC, one of Utah’s largest Asian grocers, has been ordered to pay $502,609 in back wages and liquidated damages for 148 employees after the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit to stop the grocer from interfering with an investigation into its compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The Wage and Hour Division obtained a preliminary injunction against the Salt Lake City grocer for actively interfering with its investigation by trying to prevent investigators from interviewing employees and instructing employees to tell investigators that they did not work more than 40 hours per week.
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The department also issued a subpoena to the company and its related business, Chinatown Wholesale LLC, to obtain documents about the companies’ pay practices. According to the department, the documents showed that the employer only reported up to 80 hours in a pay period and paid a weekly bonus equivalent to straight time for overtime hours worked. By law, employers must pay time and one-half the regular rate of pay for more than 40 hours in a workweek.
In an April 21 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, ordered Chinatown Supermarket and Chinatown Wholesale to pay back wages and liquidated damages, and to comply with the FLSA or face additional consequences.
“Supermarket industry workers are often paid flat daily or weekly rates of pay and are deprived of their earned overtime pay. These workers depend on every dollar they earn to care for themselves and their families,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Betty Campbell in Dallas. “The Department of Labor will hold employers fully accountable to prevent future violations and make sure competitors are not undercut by illegal pay practices. Our work helps workers and employers who follow the law.”
The food retailer was required to pay $251,305 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to affected employees, as well as $22,390 in civil money penalties for the overtime violations. The company reportedly paid back wages in full in June 2023.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will work vigorously to protect workers when employers mistakenly think they can retaliate against them exercising their rights,” noted Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in Denver. “The department is dedicated to making sure workers are paid as required by federal law. No employee should fear their employer’s wrath for reporting pay concerns.”
The 35,000-square-foot foot Chinatown Supermarket opened in August 2014 and is located inside of Salt Lake Chinatown Plaza. Specializing in Asian grocery products, it also touts a large seafood department with 18-foot-long fish tanks and a fish-market-style presentation.