- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

SEATTLE (AP) - A world-renowned restaurant and luxury inn on Lummi Island has agreed to pay workers nearly $150,000 in back pay for wage violations under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The agency said Monday that Willows Inn violated federal labor laws by not paying overtime and minimum wage to 19 entry-level kitchen workers.

The Labor Department says Willows Inn required trainees, known as “stages,” to work a one-month free tryout before they became paid employees. It also didn’t pay overtime once the workers were hired.

Willow Inns said in a statement Monday that its stage and internship program allowed young chefs to gain sought-after experience and some were compensated in various ways including with a daily rate and lodging. The company said it ended the program immediately when it learned the “staging” practice was illegal.

Willows Inn and its chef Blaine Wetzel have won numerous accolades for its locally-sourced menu.

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