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Willows Inn on Lummi Island (June 26, 2017). Photo courtesy of a reader

Willows Inn agrees to settlement with Dept of Labor

A news release from the US Department of Labor (DOL) today said investigators found Willows Inn on Lummi Island (operated by Freshore LLC), located at 2579 West Shore Drive, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

DOL Wage and Hour Division investigators, according to the release, found the Willows Inn violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay overtime and minimum wage to its employees. The restaurant required entry-level kitchen staff, known in the industry as “stages,” to work one month as a free try-out period before they were considered for paid employment. Then, once on the payroll, the kitchen workers were paid daily rates from $50 per day for up to 14 hours per day with no consideration of weekly overtime.

DOL said a settlement was reached in which the company would pay $74,812 in unpaid overtime and an equal amount in damages resulting in a total of $149,624 to 19 kitchen workers. The company also agreed to discontinue its stage program.

The use of “stages” is not unusual in the restaurant industry according to DOL. “We hope this case can educate others in the high-end restaurant world that “staging,” while common, is unfair to workers and it is illegal,” said Jeanette Aranda, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s office in Seattle.

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