Japanese Restaurant Worker Dies From Too Much Overtime

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Japanese Restaurant Worker Dies From Too Much Overtime

The UK Telegraph ran a story earlier this year that a Japanese court ruled that Nihonkai Shoya, a major Japanese restaurant chain, was required to pay the family of a worker 78.63 million yen (over $900,000) in damages because they worked him to death.

Motoyasu Fukiage worked over 112 hours of overtime a month for a four-month period, in addition to his regular 40 hours of work a week, totaling approximately 272 hours a month.  Fukiage’s family claimed that the restaurant chain, known for its traditional Japanese cuisine, imposed an unfair wage system that cut pay to employees who failed to put in 80 hours of overtime a month.  The court found that the restaurant “neglected their duty to give consideration to work hours” when it required one of its employees to work so many hours that he eventually died from overworking.  Japanese culture is notorious for extended working hours, and there is even a word which has been coined to mean death from overworking – – “karoshi.”

While there is no law in New York that prohibits excessive overtime, employees do have the right to time and a half for all hours worked over forty per week.  New York restaurants often try to avoid this requirement by paying “shift pay.”  But shift pay violates the law if it does not equal minimum wage or does not account for extra pay that employees earn if they work over forty hours in a week.

Another common overtime violation is for restaurants to calculate the overtime rate as one and one half times the hourly wage of waiters and bussers after the “tip credit” is subtracted.  However, the overtime wage of tipped employees must be calculated as one and one half times the full statutory minimum wage of $7.25, minus the tip credit of $2.60.  In other words, a restaurant can only take the tip credit once.  An illustration of this problem follows:

Unlawful Way to Calculate Overtime

Minimum wage $7.25
(minus the tip credit): $4.65
Multiply by overtime rate: x 1.5
Overtime rate:

Lawful Way to Calculate Overtime

Statutory minimum wage $7.25
Multiply by overtime rate: x 1.5
Subtract the tip credit: – $2.60
Overtime rate: $8.28

So while employers must be diligent in making sure their employees are compensated for all hours worked over forty in a week, they must be equally careful in the way they make their overtime rate calculations.

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