Mexican restaurant chain denied $11.4 million in wages, overtime to workers, feds say

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More than 1,000 employees of an East Coast Mexican restaurant chain were denied their full wages and overtime pay totaling $11.4 million across seven states and 40 restaurant locations, federal labor officials said.

Plaza Azteca, with locations in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia, was accused in a lawsuit of not keeping accurate payroll records contributing to many employees not receiving the full payment they were owed, according to a Nov. 9 news release from the Department of Labor.

“Specifically, the department alleged that numerous Plaza Azteca Mexican restaurants paid back-of-the-house employees predetermined amounts. By doing so, the employers failed to pay some employees who worked up to 40 hours in a workweek the required minimum wage and did not pay some employees time-and-a-half for hours over 40 in a workweek,” the department said in the release.

The department said the restaurants also didn’t keep accurate records of employees’ hours and wages, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Through an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, investigators recovered $11.4 million in back wages and liquidated damages, according to the release.

Plaza Azteca agreed to pay the back wages before a jury trial was scheduled to begin, the release said.

The restaurant chain was also ordered to pay $625,000 in civil penalties, the department said.

“Our investigators found Plaza Azteca knew of its legal obligations to pay workers minimum wage and overtime and keep accurate payroll records and yet, willfully disregarded federal law,” Wage and Hour administrator Jessica Looman said in the release. “The employers failed to pay full wages to more than 1,000 employees.”

The collected back wages and financial damages will be distributed to “certain current and former employees” of Plaza Azteca, the department said.

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