News Brief

US Department of Labor files complaint seeking $300K in back wages, damages for Belleville restaurant workers denied minimum wage, overtime

Employers:    Gordo Corp., operating as El Gordito, Belleville, Illinois

                        Patricia and Samuel Gonzalez Lara, owners

Action:           Complaint filing

Court:             U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

Court action: The U.S. Department of Labor filed a complaint in federal court on May 21, 2024, alleging Gordo Corp., operator of El Gordito restaurant violated federal minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping regulations. The filing comes after an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the restaurant and its owners and operators Patricia Gonzalez Lara and Samuel Gonzalez Lara violated the Fair Labor Standards Act when they did the following:

  • Failed to pay servers minimum wage for all hours worked.
  • Did not pay servers and kitchen staff an overtime premium of time and one-half their hourly rate of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.
  • Did not keep complete and accurate records that detailed an employee’s hours worked.
  • Often underreported the number of hours worked by staff. 
  • Allowed full-time servers to keep their tips but failed to enact a proper tip credit.
  • Failed to pay servers the required cash wage of $2.13 per hour, and often paid no cash wage at all. 
  • Made up the number of hours servers worked and how much they earned in tips so that the amount of servers’ paychecks would be close to $0.

Investigators reviewed payroll records from May 22, 2021 to May 21, 2023, and determined approximately $150,000 in back wages are due to 11 employees. The complaint also seeks an equal amount in liquidated damages – for a total of $300,000 – and an injunction against Gordo Corp. and its owners forbidding them from committing future FLSA violations. 

Quote: “We will not tolerate employers violating federal wage laws by making up hours worked and tips received in order to make it appear that they did not owe their servers any wages,” said Wage and Hour District Director Noah Lee in St. Louis, Missouri. “Employers are legally responsible for knowing and complying with federal wage laws.”

Background: In fiscal year 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $29.M in back wages for workers in the food service industry nationwide.

 Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division and how to file an online complaint. For confidential compliance assistance, employees and employers can call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.

Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices – also available in Spanish –to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

U.S. Department of Labor v. Gordo Corp., operating as El Gordito, Patricia Gonzalez Lara, Samuel Gonzalez Lara

Civil Action No. 3:24-cv-01359

Office of the Solicitor
May 22, 2024
Release Number
Media Contact: Scott Allen
Phone Number
Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
Phone Number
Share This