Wake County restaurant pays $53,100 in back wages after federal investigation

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Wake County Mexican restaurant has paid $53,100 in back wages to 18 employees after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

La Rancherita Mexican Restaurant in Apex paid the sum to resolve violations of the overtime, minimum wage, and recordkeeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the agency said Thursday.

WHD found La Rancherita violated federal minimum wage requirements when it required tipped employees to wait for the day's first customer to enter the establishment before clocking-in, instead of doing so when their workday began.

This practice resulted in unrecorded and unpaid work time, creating the minimum wage violations, the WHD said. Investigators also determined that cooks were paid flat salaries, without regard to the number of hours that they worked, which resulted in overtime violations.

The employer also recorded false hourly rates for these workers in an attempt to show overtime in the payroll records, federal investigators said.

"Employers must understand their responsibilities and pay employees all of the wages they have legally earned," said Wage and Hour District Director Richard Blaylock, in Raleigh. "The work of the Wage and Hour Division protects workers' wages and levels the playing field so that employers who follow the rules don't find themselves at an economic disadvantage to those who do not. We encourage all employers to use the many tools we provide to help them understand their responsibilities and to comply with the law."
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