Roanoke area restaurants and owner to pay $3 million back in wages and damages to workers

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Six Roanoke area restaurants have been ordered to pay back $3 million in wages and damages to almost 150 employees due to the violation of federal labor laws.

A U.S. District Court judge has ordered the restaurants and their owners to pay $1.5 million in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 149 employees, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The consent judgment rectifies federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations, according to the release.

The six restaurants involved in the investigation are El Rodeo-Electric Inc., El Rodeo-Orange Inc., Bravo Brandon Inc., Arellano Inc., El Toreo-Thirlane Inc. El Rodeo-Wildwood Inc., and individual owners Elijio Arellano, Jesus Arellano, and Augustin Arellano, according to the release.

According to the release, an investigation found that from Jan. 29, 2012, to Jan. 25, 2015, the six restaurants violated FLSA minimum wage and overtime provisions by only compensating servers through tips and not paying the federal minimum wage and one-and-one-half their regular rates of pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek.

The restaurants also reportedly paid non-exempt kitchen staff – cooks, assistant cooks, and dishwashers – straight time for the overtime hours they worked. Investigators also found the restaurants’ failed to keep and maintain accurate records of the hours employees worked as required, according to the release.

“This resolution secures proper compensation for these hard-working employees, and helps ensure that the law will be followed in the future,” said Wage and Hour District Director Carmen E. Otero-Infante, in Richmond.

“The agreement recovers wages owed to employees for work performed years ago,” said Regional Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III. “The outcome in this case positively impacts voluntary compliance in the food service industry in Virginia, and will level the competitive playing field for employers that comply with the law.”