$262,000 in Back Wages and Penalties to be Paid by Mexican Supermarkets and Restaurants for FLSA Violations

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

La Plaza Tapatia Supermarket LLC, Los Tres Amigos Supermarket LLC and Jalapeños Mexican Restaurant & Cantina LLC have agreed to pay a total of $232,000 in back wages to 267 employees at two supermarkets and three restaurants in Ohio following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division that disclosed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime pay and record-keeping provisions.

The companies were also assessed a combined total of $30,000 in civil money penalties for the willful nature of the violations. The employers kept two sets of records and first provided falsified documents to investigators to attempt to show compliance. After the Wage and Hour Division obtained a subpoena to compel the employers to provide additional records, the original documents were found inaccurate. Consent judgments have been filed in federal District Court to permanently enjoin each company from violating the FLSA in the future.

Investigators found that supermarket workers regularly worked in excess of 60 hours a week and were paid fixed salaries without regard to the number of hours worked. Violations resulted when those salaries did not meet minimum wage requirements and when they did not include an overtime premium of time and one-half workers’ regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Salaried restaurant workers were denied both minimum wage and overtime when their salaries likewise failed to meet these standards. Tipped employees in the restaurants did not receive enough in tips to bring them up to the federal minimum wage, and they were denied proper overtime when their pay was calculated using incorrect rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week.

Under the consent agreement, Los Tres Amigos Supermarket LLC in Cincinnati will pay 85 employees $88,795; La Plaza Tapatia Supermarket LLC in Columbus will pay126 employees a total of $113,793; Los Jalapeños Reynoldsburg will pay 30 workers $9,061; Los Jalapeños Grove City will pay 17 workers $18,159; and Los Jalapeños Gahanna will pay nine workers a total of $2,190. Time clocks will be installed at each location.

The consent agreements for La Plaza Tapatia and the three Jalapeños restaurants, which have joint ownership, were approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division in Columbus. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Western Division in Cincinnati approved the consent agreement for Los Tres Amigos Supermarket in Cincinnati.

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 of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Simply paying employees a salary does not exempt them from minimum wage and overtime protections. 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 per 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 also are required to provide employees notice of the FLSA tip credit provisions, to maintain accurate time and payroll records and to comply with the hours, hazardous orrders and other restrictions applying to workers under age 18.

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