Government seeks back wages plus damages for underpaid workers at restaurants

Investigators found that some kitchen workers were paid a flat rate per week, which amounted to less than the minimum wage per hour.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Oct 17, 2012

 

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint in U.S. district court in Dayton seeking to recover back wages and damages for workers at three El Rancho Grande restaurants in Ohio.

An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division determined that the restaurants, as well as co-owners Francisco Magana and Juan Hernandez, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay workers proper minimum wage and overtime compensation.

Investigators have determined that approximately $285,000 in back wages is owed to 171 workers at Gran Fiesta Inc. in Cincinnati, El Rancho Inc. in Sharonville and WRGRM LCC in Dayton. All three restaurants do business as El Rancho Grande.

"Low-wage workers such as restaurant servers and kitchen staff are far too often taken advantage of because they are reluctant to question employers about their pay and benefits," said George Victory, district director of the division in Columbus. "We are committed to ensuring that all workers receive their rightful wages and benefits."

Investigators found that some kitchen workers were paid a flat rate per week, which amounted to less than the minimum wage per hour, and were not compensated at time and one-half their regular rates for overtime hours worked beyond 40 per week. Additionally, servers' pay fell below the minimum wage due to deductions made for uniforms and because they were not paid for work performed both before and after their scheduled shifts. Workers with limited English skills often performed more uncompensated pre- and post-shift work than other servers. The restaurants also failed to maintain accurate time and payroll records as required.

The complaint seeks the restoration of all back wages plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, as well as future compliance with the FLSA's minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and child labor provisions. When similar wage violations and the falsification of payroll records were disclosed at the same restaurants by a 2002 Wage and Hour Division investigation, the employer agreed to pay more than $100,000 in back wages.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Earnings may be determined on a piece-rate, salary, commission or some other basis, but in all such cases the overtime pay due must be computed using the employee's average hourly rate. Employers are also required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

The FLSA also establishes a minimum age of 18 for workers in those nonagricultural occupations that the secretary of labor declares to be particularly hazardous for 16- and 17-year-old workers or detrimental to their health or well-being. Individuals ages 14 and 15 may be employed outside of school hours in a variety of nonmanufacturing and nonhazardous jobs for limited periods of time and under specified conditions. A list of hazardous occupations prohibited for minors is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/childlabo....

Additional information on child labor rules can be found http://www.youthrules.dol.gov/in....

The department has created a smartphone application, available at http://www.dol.gov/dol/apps, to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, users conveniently can track regular work hours, break times and any overtime hours for one or more employers. This new technology is significant because, instead of relying on their employers' records, workers now can keep their own records.

To learn more about the FLSA's requirements, call the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd.

Solis v. El Rancho Inc., Grand Fiesta Inc., WRGRM LLC, Francisco Magana, Juan Hernandez

Civil Action Number: 3:12-cv-00295

Comments

truckin

See this is the part of the fair labor i Do Not agree with.. If you accept a salary and agree knowing FULL well there will be long hrs at times etc. The government should NOT intervene. It's an agreement between you and an employer. Look at truckers. Many of times get stuck at a dock for hrs. just to find out you must go to a truck stop and wait till tomorrow for your next load because you were delayed too long on the previous. The nites away and traffic jams etc. At times i have wondered am i really making minimum wage? Then comes the good weeks and the big bucks come rolling in for minimal time consumption. It makes for a wash.. To all who are going to disagree with me...Just if you take an agreement do it. If you feel it's unfair. Quit, or just don't agree to the terms period. If enough people refuse to work for the wage, supply and demand will kick in and the employer will have to compensate better if he/she wants the labor done. All without GOVERNMENT interference.

former local

First of all, how do you know they knew there would be long hours? Second of all, it's NOT all right for "job creators" to take advantage of their employees!

truckin

well.. do they have a watch?.. quit, move on.. Take advantage? Hey if i need food you can bet your @ss i will work for low money if it meant food on the table. But to do it for yrs, then cry foul?.... All i am saying is there are just too many government interferences and now we have a society who can't think for themselves.. Like whether or not there being taken "advantaged" of. But oh no "you need big bad ruler/dictator to determine your labors worth". With that comes many other controls and like now.. Is this really the land of the free?? Heck, i believe it's illegal for kids to pick strawberries and be paid by the quart.. Poor little Suzy may be a slower picker than Johnny and that wouldn't be fair wage practice..or even if she's lazier... it's still NOT fair. Boo HOO

deertracker

It's the law to pay a fair wage. I don't believe restaurant employees agree to work for less than minimum wages. How many employers tell potential employees that they will be working for less than the minimum wage? None! This is not Mexico truckin'!

truckin

OK.. where does "fair wage" begin and end. I hire a maid to clean my house. We agree on a price/salary of $50, she is slow and takes 10 hrs..?? or I hire a man to wax my semi, now i will be using the agreed price as a tax write-off for my business, same scenario. I hire a teenager to mow my lawn, the kid decides to mow for 5 straight hrs and get it done early so he can make his date on time, am i guilty of not forcing him to take a break?? child labor..?? Am i obligated?? where does government.. interference end?