La Nopalera to pay nearly $178K in back wages to 24 workers

Published On: Apr 09 2012 11:21:55 AM EDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2012 11:22:07 AM EDT
ORANGE PARK, Fla. -

La Nopalera restaurant in Orange Park has agreed to pay 24 employees $177,935 in back wages following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division that uncovered violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime provisions.

"Last August we announced that more than $934,000 in back wages were found due to employees of two other restaurants in Florida doing business under the same franchise name, and we continue to hold employers accountable when they abuse low-wage workers," said Michael Young, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Jacksonville District Office, which conducted the investigation. "Companies that play by the rules must be protected from those who use unscrupulous tactics to gain a competitive advantage."

Investigators found that tipped employees received only customers' tips for their wages, and employees did not receive overtime pay for hours beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Additionally, the restaurant failed to pay for all hours worked, required employees to work "off the clock" before and after their shifts, and failed to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

Of the total due, 24 employees will receive $176,377 for minimum wages owed, and two of those employees also will receive $1,558 in overtime back wages.

The Wage and Hour Division said it has several ongoing enforcement initiatives in Florida and throughout the nation to address similar noncompliance issues that are common in the restaurant industry. Other La Nopalera restaurants in Florida and Georgia were not part of this investigation.

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.

When 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 with notice of the FLSA's tip credit provisions, to maintain accurate time and payroll records, and to comply with restrictions applying to workers under age 18 on hours and occupations.