The owner of four El Tequila Mexican restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma paid more than 300 current and former restaurant workers a salary that cheated them out of the minimum wage and overtime pay. The restaurants’ violations add up to $2.1 million in back wages and damages owed to the workers. According to U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) investigators, the workers, including kitchen staff, hosts and bussers, were paid a fixed weekly salary for as many as 72 hours a week and did not receive any overtime pay when they worked over 40 hours in a given workweek. The DOL also claims that waiters and waitresses at the restaurants were required to hand over their tips to management at the end of every shift, which brought their pay below the minimum wage.
Additionally, the owner did not keep accurate records of workers’ tips and hours worked and lied to a federal investigator about how workers at his restaurants were paid. The owner admitted to systematically sending fake hourly time records to his accountants, who would then generate pay records that made it look as if the restaurants paid their employees the proper minimum wage and overtime pay. He also instructed his managers to create time sheets with inaccurate hours and to withhold documents showing employees’ actual hours worked.