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Senate cafeteria workers due back pay

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Almost 700 food service workers at the U.S. Senate cafeterias will receive more than $1 million in back wages after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found their employers failed to pay the prevailing wages required of federal contractors, the DOL said Tuesday.

The DOL said in its statement that New York-based Restaurant Associates and its subcontractor, Baltimore-based Personnel Plus, will pay 674 workers $1,008,302 in back wages.

The department said the employers had violated the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act by improperly classifying workers and paying them for doing lower-paying jobs than they actually performed. They also required employees to work prior to their scheduled starting times without compensation, said the department.

Paying them below the required rates also caused the companies to fail to pay the workers overtime at the proper rates, the department said in its statement. Furthermore, the agency determined the employers failed to pay required health and welfare benefits.

The department said it is reviewing the investigation’s findings to determine whether to seek the employers’ debarment from obtaining future federal government contracts.

“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 DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in the Northeast, in a statement “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.”

Sam Souccar, senior vice president, creative services, at Restaurant Associates, said in a statement, “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.

“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.

“We are 100 percent committed to ensuring classifications are accurate going forward, and have implemented enhanced monitoring and training at the U.S. Senate and in all accounts where the SCA applies.”

Personnel Plus president Robert Guiney said his firm has never had a contract with the federal government, and has been told by the Department of Labor that it “has no responsibility in this matter, and we did not owe any employees back pay.” He added, “Why they mentioned our name in this press release is a mystery.”