Employees of na'Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse and Iron Abbey Gastro Pub in Horsham are entitled to a combined $110,369 in back wages, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Owners of the Easton Road business agreed to pay the amount to 42 employees after a U.S. Labor Department investigation determined that some employees who worked more than 40 hours per week were not paid overtime and some workers earned less than the $7.25 per hour minimum wage, according to a press release issued by the Department.
Celso Leite, president of na'Brasa and Iron Abbey - which are located in the same building and share a kitchen - told Patch that the reported failure to pay minimum wage violation is "not necessarily true" and acknowledged that some overtime wages were due from the last two years.
"Everybody was paid the minimum wage," Leite said Thursday.
Leite said employees were misclassified and implied that the government was looking for issues with his claim that "900 new agents were hired this year to go after businesses."
According to the U.S. Labor Department, the wage and overtime issues were violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. The violations were discovered during an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division of both restaurants.
Investigators found that the employer improperly classified Fair Labor Standards Act's covered employees working as meat carvers, also known as “gauchos,” as exempt from overtime pay and consequently denied them proper compensation for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Additionally, several employees including dishwashers, line cooks and other kitchen staff were required to work long hours – often in excess of 60 per week – and were paid a fixed salary that did not include overtime pay or yield at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The employer also failed to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages and work hours, as required, according to the release.
“The employer incorrectly concluded that gauchos, because they train for six months to a year in the art of preparing and serving meats in the Brazilian tradition, qualified as professional employees and thus are exempt from overtime,” Stewart Bostic, director of the division’s Philadelphia District Office said in the release. “Our investigators found that the duties of the gauchos are more dependent on skill and precision, rather than originality and talent. The professional exemption from overtime does not apply in this case."
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked over 40 per week. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained.