A New Mexico restaurant chain has been ordered to pay employees $ 45,700 in back wages for overtime accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move comes after investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wages and Hours division discovered that Chachi’s, the operator of Chachi’s Express, Chachi’s in Dona Ana and the Mexican restaurant Chachi’s in Las Cruces, No. had not paid overtime to staff when he had worked more than 40 hours in a week.
Many restaurant workers have seen their wages drop in recent months after businesses were forced to shut down or limit service to al fresco dining.
In a press release, investigators blamed Chachi for leaving “short-term” staff at this difficult time, even though they had put themselves in danger to keep the company going.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees “shall be paid overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per work week” at a rate “of at least one and a half times the regular rate of pay.”
As a result of the investigation, $ 45,700 in back wages were recovered for 22 workers.
“Not paying workers all of their hard-earned overtime is bad business and it misleads employees and competitors,” said Evelyn Ortiz, district manager of the Wages and Hours division in Albuquerque.
“As an employer, Chachi’s LLC must comply with federal worker protections. Amid the pandemic, restaurant workers, like many other frontline workers, are putting themselves at risk to earn a living and keep businesses. The last thing they should have to worry about is being cheated by their employer.
News week contacted Chachi for comment.
In August, a South Carolina restaurant was forced to pay 10 workers more than $ 75,000 in back wages after illegally forcing them to share their tips with the owner and manager.
An investigation into Sarku Hibachi Grill & Buffet in Surfside Beach found that the restaurant required waiters – who were paid an hourly wage of $ 3 or less – to share tips with their employer and manager in violation of federal labor laws.
Working conditions in the restaurant industry were highlighted in a six-second video shared with TikTok earlier this month, which shows several restaurant workers squatting behind a counter to grab bites.
While it’s not clear which restaurant is depicted in the video, TikTok commentators said it appeared workers didn’t have time to eat during their shifts.
America’s tipping culture has also come under scrutiny in recent weeks after a waitress posted a clip on TikTok revealing that she received a paycheck for just 1 penny.