News Release

Forced to live on tips: Department of Labor recovers $253K in back wages for 93 workers after Florida restaurants denied them minimum wage, overtime

Restaurants paid servers no wages, failed to pay others required overtime

ORLANDO, FL – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $253,044 in back wages for 93 workers of four Florida restaurants after an investigation found the enterprise did not pay servers any wages and failed to pay other workers overtime rates.

The recovery follows a federal consent order entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando on Nov. 18, 2022, that mandates the four restaurants and owner Juan Zarinana to pay the back wages to the affected employees, and forbid them from future violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined the four restaurants failed to pay tipped employees a cash wage for any of the hours they worked, requiring them to rely only on customers’ tips for income.

By law, an employer of a tipped employee must pay at least a $2.13 per hour cash wage if that amount – combined with the tips received – equals at least the federal minimum wage. If the workers’ tips and the employer’s direct wages do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer is required to make up the difference. In Florida, however, the higher direct wage amount for tipped employees is $7.98 per hour.

Investigators also found the employer paid workers straight time for all hours regardless of how many they worked and denied them the additional half-time rate for hours over 40 in a workweek. By doing so, the employer’s pay practices led to FLSA violations at the following locations:


Operating as



La Catrina Mexican Restaurant Inc.

La Catrina

315 W Cocoa Beach Causeway

Cocoa Beach

El Molcajete Cocina Mexicana Inc.

El Molcajete    

2976 S Ridgewood Ave. 


La Cantina Cocina Mexicana Inc.

La Cantina 

4085 S Ridgewood Ave.

Port Orange

El Tequila's Authentic Mexican Restaurant Inc.

El Tequila's

1784 S Ridgewood Ave.

South Daytona

“Federal and state laws prohibit employers from forcing tipped workers to depend on customers’ generosity to make a living,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Wildalí De Jesús in Orlando, Florida. “In fact, an employer of a tipped worker must pay certain wages and ensure that amount – combined with tips – equals at least the federal minimum wage. The employer must make up the difference if not.”

“Employers who do not follow the law and shortchange tipped workers often find the consequences to be quite costly,” she added.

Any employee working in an occupation in which he or she regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips is considered a tipped employee. Workers and employers alike can get information about minimum wages for tipped workers on the department’s website.

The FLSA requires that most employees in the U.S. be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at not less than time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The Florida state minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $12 on Sept. 30, 2023.

Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

You can also learn more about the Wage and Hour Division online, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App – available in English and Spanish – for android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

Wage and Hour Division
February 22, 2023
Release Number
Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
Phone Number
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