U.S. Department of Labor Finds Wisconsin Restaurant Operator Casa Tequila LLC Shortchanged More Than 100 Employees More Than $272,000 in Wages
Casa Tequila LLC in Wisconsin violated federal regulations, including child labor laws
PEWAUKEE, WI (STL.News) The U.S. Department of Labor has found the operator of four Wisconsin restaurants, Casa Tequila LLC, violated several federal regulations, denying 110 servers, cooks, and other employees earned wages and tips and employing three minors to work later and longer hours than the law permits.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined Casa Tequila LLC of Pewaukee and owner Maria Campuzano operated an invalid tip pool at its Pewaukee restaurant, failed to pay the proper overtime rate of pay when required, and miscalculated overtime wages due to some employees. In addition to Pewaukee, the investigation covered the employer’s restaurants in Hartford, Waukesha, and West Bend, Wisconsin.
The division found Casa Tequila owes the affected employees a total of $272,177 in back wages.
“Violations like those found in our investigation of Casa Tequila are all-too-common in the food service industry,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Kristin Tout in Minneapolis. “Restaurants often employ people unfamiliar with their legal rights and protections as workers and who may be fearful about raising or reporting their concerns. Workers concerned about their employer’s pay practices can contact the Wage and Hour Division, anonymously if they prefer, to ask questions and to understand their rights better.”
Investigators determined Casa Tequila violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, recordkeeping, and child labor provisions when it:
- Operated an invalid tip pool at the Pewaukee location by including kitchen staff and cooks, which are not tipped occupations. By doing so, the employer lost its ability to claim credit for tips toward its minimum wage and overtime obligations for tipped employees, such as servers.
- Based the overtime rate paid to tipped employees on their cash wage rather than minimum wage, which led to overtime violations.
- Failed to include all of the compensation Pewaukee cooks earned in their average hourly rate of pay for overtime purposes. Since the employer illegally included cooks in the tip pool, the tips they received must be included in their regular rates of pay to determine their required overtime wages.
- Paid straight-time rates instead of time and one-half for hours over 40 in a workweek at all locations.
- Employed three children between the ages of 14 and 15 past 9 p.m. and for more than 8 hours at its West Bend and Waukesha locations in violation of federal child labor standards.
- Failed to display Fair Labor Standards Act posters as required.
In addition to requiring payment of back wages, the division assessed $2,373 in civil money penalties to Casa Tequila LLC for its child labor violations.
“Restaurant operators are legally required to understand and comply with federal laws governing how tipped and hourly workers’ wages must be paid and how young workers can be employed safely with a schedule that does not interfere with their education or well-being,” Tout added. “Employers who fail to comply will be held accountable, and the Wage and Hour Division will do everything in its power to recover wages owed to employees.”
The locations covered, the number of affected employees, and the total back wages owed are as follows:
- Casa Tequila Peqaukee – 1405 Capitol Drive – 38 Employees – $140,071
- Casa Tequila Bend – 150 South Main Street – 22 Employees – $52,398
- Casa Tequila Waukesa – 2423 Kossow Road – 28 Employees – $51,338
- Casa Tequila Hartford – 3461 High Road – 22 Employees – $28,370
The Wage and Hour Division offers a Quick Service Restaurants Compliance Assistance Toolkit to help industry employers avoid violations. The division’s YouthRules! initiative promotes developmental work experiences for teens by providing information about protections for young workers to youth, parents, employers, and educators. The Wage and Hour Division has also published Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers to help employers comply with the law.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor