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April 01, 2011
Restaurants Owe $240,000 in Back Pay, Damages

A federal judge in Urbana has ordered Los Matadores Inc., which operates Mi Pueblito Restaurante Mexicano and Guadalajara Restaurant in Decatur, and its president to pay 62 employees $200,000 in back wages and $40,000 in liquidated damages to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Los Matadores must also pay a civil penalty of $10,000 for repeat and willful violations of the act.

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An investigation by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) found that the company failed to pay overtime wages for hours worked over 40 in a week, paid workers less than the federal minimum wage, and failed to keep accurate pay records.

WHD has stepped up monitoring and enforcement of restaurants due to a large number of violations in the industry, officials said. In the past year, the department reported violations at more than 50 restaurants in Illinois and recovered more than $500,000 for 480 low-wage workers.

In addition to the suit against Los Matadores, DOL has filed a legal action against Peoria-based Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant and its manager for alleged FLSA violations. Cases are also pending for similar complaints against El Matador Inc. and El Caporal Inc. in Decatur.

“There is no excuse for an employer to disregard federal labor standards,” said Norma Cervi, director of WHD’s district office in St. Louis, Missouri. WHD “will use all available tools, including litigation, to ensure workers receive wages that are rightfully theirs,” Cervi said.

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