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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced a final rule today extending the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s direct care workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. This change, effective January 1, 2015, ensures that nearly two million workers – such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants – will have the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers. It will help ensure that individuals and families who rely on the assistance of direct care workers have access to consistent and high quality care from a stable and increasingly professional workforce.

To help families, other employers, and workers understand the new requirements, the Department will be hosting five public webinars during the month of October and has created a new, dedicated web portal at dol.gov/whd/homecare with fact sheets, FAQs, interactive web tools, and other materials.

A Mexican restaurant in Cary agreed to pay its workers back wages it owed for skimping on overtime pay and tips.

Los Tres Magueyes paid 13 workers a total of $145,636 in money owed for unpaid overtime, tips taken from servers and hourly wages, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

The restaurant chain has several locations in the Triangle, as well as one in Danville, Va. Nell Navarro, who identified herself as one of the family member owners of the restaurant, said she had no comment on the settlement when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon at the Cary location.

Waiters and waitresses at the Cary location were paid $3.15 an hour, but only for the first 40 hours they worked, according to the labor department investigation. When working overtime, wait staff only received tips (and no wages) and had to pay $200 a week into an illegal “tip pool” that both servers and non-tipped employees had to participate in, according to the labor department news release.  Labor investigators also found kitchen staff had fixed monthly salaries, regardless of the number of hours they worked each month.

“We found many low-wage employees working up to 50 hours a week without any overtime compensation and receiving pay below the federal minimum wage,” said Richard Blaylock, the director of the agency’s wage division office in Raleigh.

Federal wage law allows restaurant servers to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour, but only when the wait staff earn enough in tips to bring the total wages to the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. Employers are required to make up the difference.