Workers at three Sonoma County Mexican restaurants will receive nearly $300,000 in back wages and damages under an agreement between their employer and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The employer, Antonio Gonzalez, whose company runs two El Charro restaurants in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park, was found to have “willfully violated” minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of federal labor law for 28 employees, according to a press release from the Labor Department’s San Francisco office.
Gonzalez will pay an additional $15,115 in penalties to the government.
The case initially included a restaurant in Guerneville which subsequently closed.
Efforts to reach Gonzalez were unsuccessful. A woman who identified herself as his daughter answered the phone at the Rohnert Park restaurant and said she would talk to her father before commenting.
Investigators with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found the workers were paid straight-time rates in cash for overtime hours worked, rather than time-and-one-half for work beyond the standard 40-hour week as required by law, the release said.
The employer, El Charro Casita, Inc., also created and maintained a false set of timecards and paychecks “in an effort to conceal the nonpayment of overtime wages due under federal law,” the release said.
Investigators also found the Santa Rosa restaurant had employed a minor under the legal working age of 14, a violation of federal child labor law.
“The resolution of this investigation ensures that these employees will receive the wages they have earned,” said Susana Blanco, the Wage and Hour Division director.
The enforcement action is intended to “level the playing field,” preventing employers who do not comply with labor law from gaining a competitive advantage over those who do, she said.
As part of the agreement, Gonzalez’s company will modernize its payroll and scheduling system, provide all employees with labor law training and designate a third-party monitor to review the company’s compliance with labor laws every six months for at least two years, the release said.
Gonzalez acknowledged that retaliating against or threatening any employee for cooperating with a government investigation is prohibited and may subject him to further action, the release said.
Leo Kay, a Labor Department spokesman, said investigations of wage violations are prompted by a random inspection or by a worker’s complaint, and it is the department’s policy not to disclose the reason in a specific case.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @guykovner.