MANCHESTER, NH – Two Manchester restaurants and their owner and manager have paid $263,743 in back wages to 68 employees to resolve numerous willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act found in a federal investigation. The U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire ordered the resolution in a consent judgement.
In addition to payment of back wages for violations of federal minimum wage and overtime requirements, Puerto Vallarta Mexican Grill LLC, Nuevo Vallarta Mexican Grill LLC, owner Jorge Gomez and manager Liliana Gomez paid $38,352 in civil money penalties. The employers also violated the law’s anti-retaliation and recordkeeping provisions.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the defendants willfully:
Failed to pay front-of-the-house employees for all the hours that they worked, including hours spent cleaning the restaurants, resulting in minimum wage and overtime violations.
Failed to compute properly the overtime rates due to employees who worked at both restaurants in the same workweek.
Failed to pay the required overtime premium properly to back-of-the-house employees.
Calculated employees’ overtime rates erroneously based on their direct cash wages instead of their regular rates of pay.
Failed to maintain complete records as required by the FLSA, including employee information, pay rates and totals and dates of payments.
Violated the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provisions by coaching employees on what to say to division investigators during the investigation, behavior that well might dissuade a reasonable worker from engaging in activity protected under the FLSA.
“These essential workers deserve to be paid every cent they have earned,” said Acting Wage and Hour District Director Steven McKinney, in Manchester. “Shorting workers’ wages harms not only the employees and their families, but also other employers who play by the rules and find themselves at an economic disadvantage to those who fail to do so.”
In addition to the back wages and penalties, the court ordered the defendants to:
Comply with the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime, anti-retaliation and recordkeeping provisions.
Cooperate with future investigations by the division.
Provide employees with copies of publications outlining their rights under the FLSA.
Provide annual FLSA compliance training for supervisors, managers and payroll personnel.
Refrain from soliciting kickbacks of back wages from employees.
“Effective enforcement of the FLSA depends on workers feeling safe asserting their rights. The U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate employers who coach their employees on what to say to investigators or otherwise retaliate against employees,” said regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston. “Employees have the right to be paid all the wages they have earned and to participate in investigations without repercussions for having done so. When employers violate those rights, we will take necessary and appropriate legal action.”
The division’s Northern New England District Office in Manchester conducted the investigation. The department’s regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston filed the complaint and consent judgment.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the agency, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). 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.