News Release

US Department of Labor recovers $102K in tips, back wages, liquidated damages for Maine restaurant workers denied overtime, tips

Investigation finds employers improperly calculated overtime, misused tips

MANCHESTER, NH – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $51,217 in restored tips and back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages from the operator of three Cumberland County, Maine, restaurants that denied 25 workers their full overtime wages or kept portions of their earned tips illegally.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that El Grand Rodeo, operating as El Rodeo in South Portland, El Rodeo Brunswick LLC in Brunswick and Azul Tequila LLC in Gorham failed to combine the hours of employees working at more than one location when calculating overtime for hours over 40 in each workweek. They also found Azul Tequila diverted tip pool monies to a part owner and a manager improperly and failed to pay overtime to one non-exempt salaried employee. The employers’ actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The overtime and tip-related violations found in these investigations are all-too-common in the food service industry,” said Wage and Hour District Director Steven McKinney in Manchester, New Hampshire. “Workers who rely on tips depend on them to supplement their hourly wages to make ends meet. Employers who deprive workers money they earn may face costly consequences when they violate the law.”

Federal law prohibits employers, managers and supervisors from keeping employees’ tips, including tips in tip pools. The law applies even if tipped workers are paid hourly at rates equal to or above the full minimum wage. 

In fiscal year 2021, the division recovered more than $34.7 million in back wages for 29,209 food service industry workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there were 1.2 million job openings in the accommodations and food service industry in August 2022, while 1,022,000 accommodations and food service industry workers separated from their jobs.

Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of immigration status, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.

For more information about the FLSA, restaurant employment and restaurant workers, or other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division and a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free.

Wage and Hour Division
October 31, 2022
Release Number
Media Contact: James C. Lally
Phone Number
Media Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
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