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US Labor Department sues Tulsa, Okla.-based Mexican restaurant group, owner to recover $1 million in unpaid wages for employees
Violations found at 4 locations in Broken Arrow, Owasso and Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Tulsa-based El Tequila LLC and owner Carlos Aguirre after an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division found that the defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. These violations resulted in a total of approximately $1 million in unpaid wages owed to 221 kitchen and wait staff, hosts and bussers at four restaurant locations.
The suit was filed in the Northern District of Oklahoma, Tulsa Division, and it seeks to recover the full amount of back wages for the employees as well as an injunction prohibiting future violations of the FLSA.
"The restaurant industry employs some of our country's lowest-paid, most vulnerable workers," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "When violations of the FLSA are discovered, the Labor Department will take appropriate action to ensure workers receive the wages they have earned and to which they are legally entitled."
The investigation, conducted by the division's Oklahoma City District Office, determined that FLSA-covered employees, who in some cases worked as many as 72 hours in a week, were paid a fixed salary without overtime compensation for hours beyond 40 in a week. In addition to overtime violations, this practice resulted in minimum wage violations because employees did not always receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Investigators also found that wait personnel were required to turn their tips over to management at the end of every shift, which caused their pay to fall below the minimum wage. Finally, the employer did not keep proper records as required.
Violations were found at the company's restaurants on Memorial Drive and South Harvard Avenue in Tulsa, East 86nd Street North in Owasso and North Elm Place in Broken Arrow.
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 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. If an employee's tips combined with the employer's direct wages do not equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Employers are required to provide employees notice of the FLSA's tip credit provisions, to maintain accurate time and payroll records, and to comply with the act's restrictions applying to workers under age 18.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Oklahoma City office at 405-231-4158. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
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