Vicari Restaurant Group found to owe $88K in backpay to employees by Dept of Labor

The owner of several popular restaurants in Metro Detroit, the Vicari Restaurant Group, was accused of violating minimum wage and child labor laws.

The Department of Labor said violations like these are all too common in the food service industry. Vicari operates 20 Detroit-area restaurants and paid $88,020 in back wages and damages to 127 people - roughly $630 per person.

"If you’re not familiar with these rules  It’s easy to make a mistake." said Dr. Marick Masters, Wayne State University.

The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group and found workers at 13 locations didn’t get their full wages.

"For those people involved, it’s significant and the Department of Labor, needless to say, has a difficult time keeping up with these violations, and tracking them down," he said. "The more they can enforce it, the more they send a message that these are the things that they take seriously."

The restaurant group was accused of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, specifically minimum wage and overtime provisions.

"Smaller businesses are going to be more inclined to make these kinds of mistakes simply because they don’t have the staff to keep up with it and monitor things, computing the overtime you would have to pay employees if they are tipped or not, that can be somewhat complicated."

They also allegedly allowed one 15-year-old to work past 9 p.m. and more than eight hours in a day, which amounted to just under $800 in penalties for the group.

"It is likely that some employees may have complained to the Department of Labor,  they might have been contacted by unions seeking to represent them on how to make these type of complaints," Masters said.

Here’s the company’s statement:

"It is our priority that our employees are properly paid, and we want to thank the Department of Labor for working with us to ensure that the payroll errors that occurred during the pandemic were handled properly for our employees.

"As we worked to keep our employees employed and safe during Covid-19, our payroll company made some errors, which were recently brought to our attention, for which we take full responsibility.  We were able to correct these errors and consider this a teachable moment. We thank our employees for their understanding and continued support."

FOX 2 offered the Vicari Group a chance to do an interview, they declined but provided the statement.

The Department of Labor also alleges the company failed to keep accurate pay records for employees paid in cash.