Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
DALLAS -- Owners and operators of El Rancho Supermercado grocery store franchises have paid $84,076 in back wages to 1,114 employees working as sackers, cashiers, cooks, bakers, stockers and tortilla makers at 12 store locations throughout Texas. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division disclosed violations of the minimum wage, overtime, record keeping and child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employers have committed similar FLSA violations in the past and have now been assessed an additional $50,410 in civil money penalties for repeat wage-related offenses and child labor violations.
“These El Rancho grocery stores benefited by depriving low-wage workers of their overtime compensation and by paying many below the federal minimum wage. In two cases, the employer put the health and well-being of minors at risk by requiring them to perform prohibited, hazardous jobs,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. “The penalties imposed against the employers are indicative of the Wage and Hour Division’s effort to hold violators accountable for breaking the law. We are determined to use all enforcement tools available to ensure workers are fairly compensated and our young workers are kept safe.”
Investigations by the division’s Dallas District Office found that many employees were paid on a piece-rate basis rather than an hourly rate. Their total wages amounted to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and they were not paid an overtime premium for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Additional minimum wage violations resulted when the employers made illegal deductions from the workers’ paychecks for uniforms and cash register shortages. The employers also failed to combine all hours worked by employees at multiple franchise locations in a workweek, and failed to include nondiscretionary bonuses when computing overtime premiums, thus denying employees proper overtime compensation. Additionally, the employers failed to maintain the required record keeping.
Investigators also found that the El Rancho Supermercado grocery stores in Arlington and Dallas allowed three minors to operate trash compactors, in violation of the FLSA’s Hazardous Occupations Order No. 12, which generally prohibits workers under 18 from operating, loading or unloading all balers and compactors.
El Rancho Supermercado is a full-service supermarket franchise that is headquartered in Garland. FLSA violations were disclosed at the following El Rancho locations: one store in Arlington, owned and operated by Abkhalil Brothers Enterprises Inc.; two stores in Austin, owned and operated by Aldita Foods and Austin Ranch Market LLC; six stores in Dallas, owned and operated by Nafal Enterprises Inc., Supremo Foods LP, Sonora Foods LLC, Monterrey Foods LLC, Mexico Foods LLC, and Garland Ranch Market LLC; one store in Fort Worth, owned and operated by Fort Worth LLC; one store in Lewisville, owned and operated by Tamaulipas Food LLC; and one store in Odessa, owned and operated by Odessa Market LLC.
All employers have agreed to fully comply with the FLSA in the future and back wages have been paid in full.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt 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. Additionally, employers must 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. Youths ages 14 and 15 may be employed outside of school hours in a variety of nonmanufacturing, nonmining, and nonhazardous jobs for limited periods of time and under specified conditions.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 1-866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Dallas office at 817-861-2150. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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