The owner of a white tablecloth restaurant in Miramar Beach with four stars on multiple platforms does not deny paying $97,222 in back wages to 30 employees and a civil fine of $10,903 after a US Department of Labor investigation .
But Cary Shahid says he was certainly not trying to deceive his employees at the Ocean Club restaurant and felt “intimidated” by Labor investigators.
“I felt like I was in Russia,” said Shahid, owner of the North Florida restaurant. “They never asked about my side of the story – ever. They almost made me hate the company. There is no one who values the employer-employee relationship more.
“I did nothing wrong but accommodate my employees.”
Labor said a survey of wages and hours found that Ocean Club management:
▪ “Require servers to give 5% of their tips to their managers, who then redistribute them to untipped workers.
Some restaurants give this money to server assistants/busboys, hostesses and bartenders, who also earn an hourly wage at or just above the normal minimum wage.
▪ “Cooks paid fixed wages regardless of the number of hours worked, did not pay them overtime required when they worked more than 40 hours a week.”
Shahid said the cooks asked to be paid and tried to refuse to take the back pay. All four would come to work together, he said, and clock in at the same time even if only two started their shifts immediately.
▪ “Ignored overtime obligations when he changed a manager’s status from hourly to salaried – based on the number of hours worked in the week – and failed to pay the hours that the manager worked more than 40 in a work week.”
Shahid blamed it on a disgruntled manager who returned to work when the restaurant reopened after the pandemic shutdown but was about to leave. Sahid said the manager put more time on his scorecard than he actually worked.
He also said a rogue manager was responsible for similar abuses found by Labor in 2015, when The Ocean Club paid $50,623 in back wages to 29 workers. That is why Labor imposed a civil penalty against the restaurant.
The Wage and Hour Complaints section of the Department of Labor website has information on how to file a complaint. The Miami Wage and Hour Division office can be reached at 305-598-6607.
This story was originally published July 21, 2021 11:26 a.m.