Labor Department Finds Senate Food Services Contractors Broke Law

Architect of the Capitol

Contractors hired by the Architect of the Capitol must award a total of $1 million in back pay to hundreds of cafeteria workers due to violations of the federal prevailing wage law, the Labor Department announced on Tuesday.

Restaurant Associates and its subcontractor Personnel Plus will pay 674 food servers and cooks a collective $1,008,302 because of improper job classifications that violated the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, Labor’s Wage and Hour Division said. The companies paid the workers for lower-skilled jobs than they actually performed, forced them to report for work early and failed to pay overtime at proper rates, according to the decision.

In addition, the contractors failed to pay required health and welfare benefits and violated the McNamara-O’Hara Act’s recordkeeping requirements.

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“Employers given the opportunity to earn a profit by providing a service to the government at a cost to the taxpayer have a legal obligation to follow the letter of the law, especially when it comes to paying their workers,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil. “Workers in the restaurant industry are among the lowest-paid workers in our economy. Most struggle to afford life’s basic expenses and pay their bills; they shouldn’t have to deal with paychecks that don’t accurately reflect their hard work and the wages to which they are legally entitled.” 

Investigators found that Restaurant Associates’ failure to pay workers proper overtime and failure to maintain a record of hours employees worked prior to their scheduled shifts also violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Enforcement of the prevailing wage laws levels the playing field for all contractors and protects the wages of hard-working employees,” said Mark Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Northeast. “These contractors’ actions put vulnerable, low-wage workers and their families in jeopardy. The division will remain vigilant in its enforcement of these laws to protect both workers and employers.”  

The department is considering whether to debar Restaurant Associates and Personnel Plus from future contracts.

“Since January we have worked diligently with the Department of Labor in regard to our contract with the Architect of the Capitol at the U.S. Senate,” Restaurant Associates said in a statement. “We discovered as a result of the DoL’s review that some of our associates were not properly classified in appropriate job categories under the Service Contract Act. The misclassifications were largely attributable to administrative technicalities related to our associates’ evolving day-to-day work responsibilities, which in some cases crossed multiple job categories.  Restaurant Associates has corrected the classifications and is working closely with the DoL to ensure payments are made as soon as possible to all impacted associates.” 

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