From Serving Food to Fixing Smiles

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Working for You

SuhjeyMeet Sujhey Hernandez of South Carolina, whose family immigrated when she was a child from Veracruz, Mexico, to the United States in search of a better life. After graduating high school, she found work as a server at Casa Linda Mexican restaurant in Columbia. Although she was happy to be employed, she knew “something didn’t seem right” regarding her pay.

For more than a year, she worked around 55 hours a week but only received tips from her employer. Unfortunately, this is a situation that our Wage and Hour Division finds all too frequently in the restaurant industry, where low-wage workers don’t always know their rights or who to turn to when there is a problem.

The division conducted an investigation of Casa Linda and found that Sujhey and her coworkers had been shorted due to minimum wage and overtime violations. Ultimately, she received $23,885 in back pay.

This is where Sujhey’s story takes an interesting twist; instead of returning to restaurant work, she took a chance and listened to her heart. “I am smart and determined and knew I could do more,” she said.

She quit her job and used the back wages to enroll in the Palmetto School of Career Development‘s Dental Assisting Chairside program, an 11-week intensive class. Labor Department funding provided to state and local areas helps pay the cost for important training programs, like this one, that prepare workers for in-demand jobs.

Sujhey with Luis Sujhey with Luis Medina

She found work as a receptionist at a local dentist’s office after completing the course. While at work one day several months ago, Sujhey was surprised to see Luis Medina, the Wage and Hour investigator who had helped uncover the violations at her restaurant, walk in for an appointment.

“I was so happy to see him and wanted him to know how much he changed my life,” she shared.

He recently came back for another appointment, and discovered that Sujhey is not behind a desk now. Today she is proud to work in the exam rooms as a dental assistant, and credits the Labor Department for helping her achieve her dreams.

We’re proud of you, too, Sujhey!

Editor's note: Interested in job training opportunities or need help changing careers? Visit to learn more about resources available in your community.

If you are concerned about your company’s pay practices, or you are an employer who wants to be sure you are complying with the law, learn more on the Wage and Hour Division’s website or by calling 1-866-4-US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243). You also can check to see if back wages are being held for you as the result of an investigation using the online tool, Workers Owed Wages.

Lindsay Williams is a public affairs specialist for the department in Atlanta.

The DOL Working for You series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other posts in the series here.


De servir comidas a arreglar sonrisas

Por Lindsay Williams

Conozca a Sujhey Hernández, de Carolina del Sur. Cuando ella era niña su familia emigró de Veracruz, México, a Estados Unidos en busca de una vida mejor. Después de graduarse de la escuela secundaria, Sujhey encontró trabajo como mesera en el restaurante mexicano Casa Linda, en Columbia. Aunque staba feliz con el empleo, sabía que algo no estaba bien con su salario.

Por más de un año trabajó unas 55 horas a la semana, pero sólo recibió de su empleador las propinas. Lamentablemente, esta es una situación típica que nuestra División de Horas y Salarios encuentra con demasiada frecuencia en la industria de restaurantes. Se trata de una industria donde los trabajadores de bajos salarios no siempre conocen sus derechos ni a quién dirigirse cuando hay un problema.

La división llevó a cabo una investigación de Casa Linda y encontró que a Sujhey y sus compañeros de trabajo les habían pagado de menos debido a violaciones al salario mínimo y horas extras. En última instancia, gracias a la investigación recibió $23,885 en salarios atrasados.

Es aquí donde la historia de Sujhey toma un giro interesante. En lugar de volver al trabajo de restaurante se dio un chance y escuchó a su corazón: “Estaba lista y decidida; sabía que podía ir mas allá”.

Dejó su trabajo y utilizó los salarios atrasados para inscribirse en el programa Palmetto School of Career Development‘s Dental Assisting Chairside, un programa de clases intensivas de 11 semanas. La financiación que el Departamento de Trabajo proporcionada a áreas estatales y locales ayuda a pagar el costo de programas de formación importantes que, como éste, ayudan a preparar a trabajadores para puestos de trabajo de alta demanda.

Ella encontró trabajo como recepcionista en el consultorio de un dentista local después de completar el curso. Un día en el trabajo hace varios meses, Sujhey se sorprendió de ver en la consulta a Luis Medina, el investigador de Horas y Salarios que había ayudado a descubrir las violaciones laborales en el restaurante.

“Me encantó verlo y quería que supiera lo mucho que había cambiado mi vida”.

Luis Medina regresó recientemente para otra cita y descubrió que Sujhey ya no estaba tras su escritorio. Ahora ella tiene el orgullo de trabajar en las salas de examen como asistente dental, y da crédito al Departamento de Trabajo de ayudarla a alcanzar sus sueños.

¡También estamos orgullosos de usted, Sujhey!

Nota del editor: ¿Interesado en oportunidades de capacitación laboral o quiere ayuda para cambiar de carrera? Visita para aprender más acerca de los recursos disponibles en su comunidad.

Si estás preocupado por las prácticas de pago de tu empresa, o eres un empleador que quiere estar seguro de que está cumpliendo con la ley, aprende más en el sitio web de la División de Horas y Salarios o llamando al 1-866-4-US-WAGES (1 -866-487-9243). También puedes comprobar si hay salarios atrasados para usted como el resultado de una investigación utilizando la herramienta en línea, salarios adeudados a los trabajadores.

Lindsay Williams es especialista de información pública del departamento en Atlanta.

En esta serie, el Departamento de Trabajo pone de relieve los programas del departamento en acción. Puedes ver otros mensajes de la serie aquí.

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Here we have again the DOL spreading fraudulent and false information to demean and publicly shame an employer (and in this case a husband and wife team that started in 1993 - who worked hard to make a living and cook excellent food [see the website and google reviews]). The DOL never really says whether it was mistakes by the employer - only to use the word "violations." As a small business owner, I have personally had to deal with wage and hour laws ,and they are extremely complicated. It's VERY easy to make mistakes. But we don't hear that part of the story. And the settlement for back pay isn't detailed, and we hear nothing about the other "violations."

And for the real kicker... here again we have the DOL stating: "Unfortunately, this is a situation that our Wage and Hour Division finds all too frequently in the restaurant industry, where low-wage workers don’t always know their rights or who to turn to when there is a problem." Let me see... the DOL is using the wording "all too frequently." Why not post real statistics. For example, "there are six million small family owned restaurants in the US and 1% of them had wage and hour mistakes. But NO, the DOL doesn't release facts - it focuses on public shaming of employers, union-building, and false narratives. DOL, please, just once give us the real story and all of the facts. It's tiring to read the same DOL PR machine time-after-time.

Lastly, we read about how Hernandez used her back pay to pay for some school to learn dental assisting, but then we read that the DOL funds these programs? What is it DOL, did you also pay for her schooling, and she received the 23K?

Again, I ask a simple question... if an employee feels that there is something wrong with their paycheck, why is it that the first they are to do is call the DOL? What prompted her to call DOL? What were the circumstances? Why didn't she talk with the owners of the restaurant (again the DOL doesn't provide any details so we are to assume that the employee didn't try to resolve this between the restaurant and her)... But it doesn't matter, according to the DOL if you have a question about your paycheck, forget about talking with a coworker, or supervisor, or clergy, or friend, or family, or someone else who might help you understand. Instead, you are advised to go to your DOL investigator and make the evil small business pay for their mistakes... er "violations."

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