APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Labor Department is seeking to recover back pay and damages for more than 100 employees in a lawsuit against four El Azteca restaurants in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin.
Post-Crescent Media reports that, according to the lawsuit, kitchen workers and servers were not paid minimum wage or overtime by the restaurants. According to the lawsuit, some employees were making less than $1 an hour.
Karen Chaikin, a regional administrator in the Labor Department’s Chicago office, said “there is probably nothing more widely known to employers and workers alike” than minimum wage and overtime requirements.
“Failing to abide by the law and denying workers the wages to which they are legally entitled deprives them of their hard-earned income, and the ability to care for themselves and their families,” Chaikin said.
Restaurants named in the lawsuit include ones in Appleton, Neenah, Kimberly and De Pere. Scott Allen, a spokesman with the Labor Department, said back wages could amount to thousands of dollars.
“We’re hopeful the court will find in favor of the Labor Department so these folks who are working at these restaurants can get properly paid,” Allen said.
Marco Montalvo, a restaurant owner named in the lawsuit, told the newspaper that allegations in the lawsuit are false. He says he pays employees at least $7.25 an hour and treats them well.
The restaurants have seen added attention from the government for two years, Montalvo said.
“So far they haven’t proven anything,” he said. “I do everything by the law.”