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US Labor Department recovers $240,000 in back wages and damages for 62 low-wage Illinois restaurant workers

A federal judge in Urbana has ordered Los Matadores Inc., which operates Mi Pueblito Restaurante Mexicano and Guadalajara Restaurant in Decatur, and its president, J. David Fuentes, to pay 62 employees a total of $200,000 in back wages and $40,000 in liquidated damages to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Los Matadores must also pay the Department of Labor a civil money penalty of $10,000 for repeat and willful violations of the act.

Due to the large number of FLSA violations discovered in the restaurant industry, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has increased enforcement efforts and monitoring. In the past year, the department has found violations at more than 50 full-service restaurants in Illinois and has recovered more than $500,000 for 480 low-wage workers.

In addition to the suit against Los Matadores and its president, the department has filed a legal action against Peoria-based Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant and its manager, Alket Koci, for alleged violations of the FLSA. There are also legal cases pending for similar complaints against El Matador Inc. and El Caporal Inc. in Decatur.

“There is no excuse for an employer to disregard federal labor standards,” said Norma Cervi, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s district office in St. Louis, Mo. “The Labor Department takes seriously its responsibility to enforce the FLSA on behalf of vulnerable workers, and we will use all available tools, including litigation, to ensure workers receive wages that are rightfully theirs.”  The Labor Department’s suit against Los Matadores and Fuentes was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that disclosed several violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime pay and recordkeeping provisions. The investigation found that the company paid employees less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 in a single week, paid them less than the federal minimum wage, and failed to keep adequate and accurate pay records. (click on link to read full story)

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