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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [04/04/2012]
Contact Name: Juan Rodriguez
Phone Number: (972) 850-4709
Release Number: 12-0197-DAL

US Labor Department recovers more than $132,000 in back wages for 27 employees of Mexican restaurants in Houston and La Porte, Texas

Mi Sombrero and El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant failed to pay minimum wage, overtime

HOUSTON — Eleno Suarez DelaCruz, doing business as Mi Sombrero in Houston and El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant in La Porte, has paid 27 current and former cooks and wait staff $132,215 in back wages following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions.

"Restaurant workers are among the most vulnerable in the workforce," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator of the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "The department is dedicated to ensuring that every employee receives fair pay for every hour worked and that employers adhere to the provisions of the FLSA. Exploitation of workers will not be tolerated."

An investigation by the division's Houston District Office found that the employer failed to pay cooks and wait staff the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for all hours worked, and also failed to pay time and one-half employees' regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week. Instead, the employer paid flat salaries regardless of the number of hours employees worked each week. Additionally, the employer did not maintain required time and payroll records.

The division concluded that 15 employees of Mi Sombrero were owed a total of $77,537 in back wages and 12 employees of El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant were owed a total of $54,678. The employer has agreed to maintain future compliance with the FLSA and has paid the back wages owed.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour 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. In accordance with the FLSA, an employer of a tipped employee is required to pay no less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages provided that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. When an employee's tips combined with the employer's direct wages does not equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Employers also are required to provide employees notice of the FLSA tip credit provisions and to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Houston office at 713-339-5500. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.