(WTAJ) — Plaza Azteca, a chain of East Coast Mexican restaurants, agreed to pay $11.4 million in back wages and damages to more than 1,000 employees.
Through investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor said that Plaza Azteca, owned by Ruben Leon with more than 40 locations in seven states, violated minimum wage and overtime laws.
The chain, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, allegedly paid its back-of-house staff a predetermined amount which for some was less than minimum wage, and failed to pay overtime for working more than 40 hours a week. They also failed to maintain accurate records of employees’ work hours and wages, as required, according to the Department of Labor.
According to the judgment, $625,000 was also recovered in civil money penalties due to the repeat and willful nature of the violations.
“This outcome sends a strong message to other restaurant industry employers of the costly consequences that can occur when they deprive employees of their full and rightful wages,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda.
In addition, the agreement requires Plaza Azteca to retain a qualified independent consultant to make certain they comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Plaza Azteca agreed to the judgment just before a trial jury was set to begin, the Dept. of Labor noted.
The company, however, maintains that it didn’t violate the law.
“Plaza disputes it violated the law but reached a resolution with the DOL to bring closure to this matter and allow the business to continue to focus on being a great employer and providing an excellent customer experience.”Plaza Atzeca Attorney statement from Ford Harrison LLC
The lawsuit included Plaza Azteca locations in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.