Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced that United States Beef Corp., doing business as Arby’s, has agreed to pay back wages in the amount of $55,838 based on their failure to properly calculate overtime.  This agreement came following an investigation by the DOL, which found that 255 Arby’s restaurants had failed to include bonuses paid to managers when computing the “regular rate” of pay for overtime compensation. The settlement affects 759 current and former hourly paid managers in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

Pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), overtime for hourly workers “must be compensated at a rate not less than one and one half times the regular rate at which the employee is actually employed.”  The “regular rate” is computed by dividing the total compensation paid to an employee (including all commissions, bonuses and incentive pay) by the hours worked in a given week.  Contrary to an hourly rate, the “regular rate” of pay will vary from week to week depending on the number of hours worked and the monetary amount of any bonus or commission paid to the employee.

The DOL found that Arby’s had computed overtime for the hourly managers using their hourly rate of pay rather than their “regular rate.”  The DOL stated in a press release that “Fast food restaurants are frequently found by the Wage and Hour Division to be in violation of the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime wage provisions.  Because historical data indicate that the majority of violations are committed by franchisees rather than by corporate-owned establishments, the division is focusing its enforcement efforts accordingly.”

All employers, not just fast food franchisees, need to make sure that they are calculating overtime correctly.  This is especially true for businesses that pay employees lump sum amounts, such as bonuses, pursuant to company policy or practice.  As seen above, even a relatively small deviation from the required computation can lead to significant liability.