The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development just landed one of the largest recoveries of overtime wages in state history. The department’s Wage and Hour Administration secured $835,000 in overtime and liquidated damages for 159 employees of Gallo’s Mexican Restaurants and Taco King, Inc,:
A recent investigation by the department found that Gallo’s Mexican Restaurants and Taco King, with multiple locations in Anchorage and Fairbanks, violated the overtime provision of the Alaska Wage and Hour Act and failed to maintain accurate payroll records. Previous investigations into the businesses found they were in violation of Alaska’s wage and hour laws and resulted in the collection of over $50,000 in unpaid wages and damages.
“Wage violations are not uncommon in the restaurant industry where workers may not know their rights or are afraid to speak up,” said Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas. “This enforcement puts money back where it belongs – in the pockets of hardworking people and their families.”
For the investigation, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development joined forces with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), sharing resources and information with the federal agency.
Gallo’s isn’t the only restaurant chain to get in trouble with the DOL recently. These types of settlements have become more common since awareness of wage theft and workers rights around it has grown. El Calamar in Santa Ana owes its workers $96,000 in unpaid overtime and damages, according to the department:
The Department of Labor found the Mexican restaurant failed to pay overtime to 11 cooks who were sometimes paid straight time or only partial overtime payments.
El Calamar will now pay roughly $48,000 in overtime back wages and another $48,000 in damages to the 11 employees. The owners also will implement an electronic time-keeping system and stop using cash payments, the Labor Department said.
Wage theft is a far-reaching problem in the restaurant industry. Cash payments and payroll oversights are commonplace, and overtime pay is a rarity, according to the OC Register:
“Failing to pay overtime, making cash payments, and keeping inaccurate payroll records are all-too-common labor violations in the restaurant industry,” said Rodolfo Cortez, district director of the Wage and Hour Division in San Diego, in a statement.
“The resolution of this case should send a clear message to other employers who may be paying their workers in this manner – we will continue to use every enforcement tool available to improve compliance in this industry, and to ensure that workers take home every penny they have earned.”