Once a wage theft victim, Portland restaurant employer denied workers overtime, stole tips, altered records, say federal investigators
PORTLAND, OR – In 2018, Miguel Chi-dzul fell victim to wage theft and U.S. Department of Labor investigators determined that his then-employer routinely altered time records to hide the fact that he wasn’t paid for all hours worked, including overtime wages. The investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division recouped $831 in back overtime wages for him as part of its $14,758 recovery for four workers.
The experience apparently did little to stop Chi-dzul – as owner and operator of a Portland restaurant – from taking advantage of people working at Casa Maya Taqueria & Cantina, where a 2022 division investigation found he denied 31 workers a total of $94,177 in tips and back wages.
In fact, the division determined Chi-dzul altered pay records by deleting overtime hours to conceal that he failed to pay workers required overtime and also kept a portion of tips customers left for workers, both violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a result of its investigation, the division recovered $188,354 in back wages and damages for the affected workers at his Portland establishment. The division also assessed $11,292 in civil money penalties for the willful nature of the violations.
“Miguel Chi-dzul suffered wage theft as a restaurant worker, yet – when in a position to do right by his own workers – he chose to inflict worse financial suffering on people who trusted him as their employer and then attempted to cover it up,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland, Oregon. “This case serves as another unfortunate reminder that wage theft is a common and serious concern for restaurant industry workers, many of whom are vulnerable and afraid to complain.”
Investigators determined that Chi-dzul denied overtime wages to employees who, in some cases, worked up to 25 overtime hours per week.
“Restaurant workers are often among the lowest wage earners in our nation, and they depend on every dollar they earn for hours worked and on tips received for good service to their customers,” Aguilar added. “This intensifies the economic impact of Chi-dzul’s theft on his employees, each of whom has a legal right to be paid all of their hard-earned wages.”
The department published a final rule, “Tip Regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” parts of which became effective April 30, 2021. Under that rule, an employer cannot keep employees’ tips under any circumstances, and managers and supervisors may not keep tips received by employees, including through tip pools. This prohibition against employers keeping tips applies even if tipped workers are paid hourly at rates equal to or above the full federal minimum wage.
In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $34.7 million for more than 29,000 workers in the U.S. food service industry. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports near record numbers of job openings and workers in the accommodations and food services industry quitting their jobs.
The Wage and Hour Division also protects workers against retaliation and has regulations that prohibit retaliation, harassment, intimidation or adverse actions against employees that assert their worker rights. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including 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. Workers and employers with questions can contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.
Download the agency’s new Timesheet App, now available for Android and iOS devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.