Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
URBANA, Ill. -- A federal judge in Urbana has ordered Los Matadores Inc., which operates Mi Pueblito Restaurante Mexicano and Guadalajara Restaurant in Decatur, and its president, J. David Fuentes, to pay 62 employees a total of $200,000 in back wages and $40,000 in liquidated damages to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Los Matadores must also pay the Department of Labor a civil money penalty of $10,000 for repeat and willful violations of the act.
Due to the large number of FLSA violations discovered in the restaurant industry, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has increased enforcement efforts and monitoring. In the past year, the department has found violations at more than 50 full-service restaurants in Illinois and has recovered more than $500,000 for 480 low-wage workers.
In addition to the suit against Los Matadores and its president, the department has filed a legal action against Peoria-based Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant and its manager, Alket Koci, for alleged violations of the FLSA. There are also legal cases pending for similar complaints against El Matador Inc. and El Caporal Inc. in Decatur.
“There is no excuse for an employer to disregard federal labor standards,” said Norma Cervi, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s district office in St. Louis, Mo. “The Labor Department takes seriously its responsibility to enforce the FLSA on behalf of vulnerable workers, and we will use all available tools, including litigation, to ensure workers receive wages that are rightfully theirs.”
The Labor Department’s suit against Los Matadores and Fuentes was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that disclosed several violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime pay and recordkeeping provisions. The investigation found that the company paid employees less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 in a single week, paid them less than the federal minimum wage, and failed to keep adequate and accurate pay records.
In addition to requiring the defendants to pay back wages, liquidated damages and civil money penalties, the judgment prohibits the defendants from future violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping and anti-retaliation provisions.
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 hourly rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Additionally, the law requires employers to maintain accurate time and payroll records, and prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
Employers of “tipped employees” must pay either a cash wage of at least $2.13 per hour if they claim a tip credit against their federal minimum wage obligation, or the state mandated cash wage, whichever is greater. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s cash wage do not equal the required minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference. The employer must also inform the tipped employees of the intent to treat tips as satisfying part of the employer’s minimum wage obligation, and the tipped employees must be able to retain all of their tips, although they may participate in a valid tip-pooling arrangement.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s Chicago District Office at 312-596-7230 or call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.