Clayton’s Fiesta Mexicana restaurant has paid more than $100,000 in back wages and overtime to 23 employees after a federal investigation.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the restaurant failed to pay overtime and paid employees below the minimum wage.
The investigation, which began in March 2012 and ended last year, found that Fiesta Mexicana failed to pay overtime to 23 employees even though they worked more than 40 hours a week. Also, the restaurant paid 19 employees less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
A recent follow-up investigation found that Fiesta Mexicana fired one employee because the restaurant demanded repayment of the back wages and the worker refused. The Wage and Hour Division has ordered the restaurant to repay that employee $738 in wages, plus the same amount in damages.
Richard Blaylock is district director for the Wage and Hour Division in North Carolina. He said Fiesta Mexicane has until Sept. 25 to pay the wages and damages.
“In this case, the employer stepped across the line and asked an employee to repay back wages,” Blaylock said. “It was a willful act, and we take it very, very seriously.”
Reached at the restaurant, owner and manager Jose Arellano declined to comment. Clayton’s Fiesta Mexicana, which opened 10 years ago, is located at 957 Town Center Blvd. in the Walmart shopping center.
Blaylock said his department doesn’t disclose the reason it begins a specific investigation. But common triggers, he said, are employee complaints and “directive investigations,” where his office looks into industries with a history of low compliance with wage and hour laws. Restaurants are one such industry, he said.
Blaylock declined to say whether the follow-up investigation in Clayton was standard procedure or the result of a complaint.
Over two years, Blaylock said, his office looked at payroll records and conducted employee interviews. The probe ended with the Wage and Hour Division ordering the Clayton eatery to pay $102,631 to employees. Blaylock said two years was a typical timeline for an investigation in which the employer was uncooperative.
Blaylock said this was his office’s first investigation of Fiesta Mexicana. And he hopes it’s the last.
“What we hope occurs is that the employer has been educated and is very clear on what their roles and responsibilities are in ensuring all employees are getting at least the minimum wage, or overtime if they work more than 40 hours,” Blaylock said.
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