OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $59,049 in back wages and liquidated damages for 10 workers whose Oklahoma restaurant employer ignored overtime and minimum wage regulations, illegally kept a portion of workers’ tips and allowed minors to work more hours per week than permitted and at times not allowed by the federal child labor laws.
An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Eliseo Enterprises LLC, operator of Chile Verde Mexican Grill, paid employees varying amounts of pay without regard to actual hours worked and failed to pay overtime when due. Investigators also learned the employer withheld some tips from the employee tip pool and used them to pay regular wages at the operator’s discretion. Withholding tips from tipped employees led to violations of federal minimum wage regulations. Investigators also found the Oklahoma City restaurant operator did not keep proper time and pay records as required by law.
“Plain and simple, tips are the property of the workers who earn them, and employers cannot withhold tips given to tipped employees regardless of whether or not the employer takes a tip credit,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Michael Speer in Oklahoma City. “Many workers in the food service industry and their families depend on being paid all their rightfully earned wages and benefits, and being shortchanged harms them. The Wage and Hour Division offers assistance – in person, by phone and online – when employers disregard the law, they will be held to account.”
In addition to wage violations, the division determined Eliseo Enterprises permitted two of three 15-year-old employees to work between 22 and 27 hours per week and up to 39 hours in some instances. All three minors worked more than 8 hours per day or past 7 p.m. on school nights.[AW1] Investigators also found the minors worked 8 to 10 hours a day and as late as 10 p.m. on school nights to close the restaurant.[VW2] These practices violate the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In fiscal year 2021, the division identified nearly $35 million in back wages owed to more than 29,000 food service industry workers. In its food service investigations, the division commonly finds violations related to employers retaining tips, failing to pay overtime when required and not paying for pre- and post-shift work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in food preparation and service occupations will grow 20 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations, and gain about 2.3 million jobs. These occupations are among the nation’s lowest paid groups. Employers who ensure their workers are paid their rightful wages and benefits will be best positioned to retain and recruit skilled workers.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, regulations for the food service industry, and a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division regardless of where they are from, it is free, confidential and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.
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