“Nopalera” is Spanish for a “patch of prickly cactus.” That’s exactly where the owners of a Gainesville restaurant called La Nopalera found themselves after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) discovered they weren’t paying wages to Hispanic employees, making them work for tips alone.
To get out of the sticky situation, the restaurant’s owners have agreed to a settlement that will pay the workers $178,000.
The Gainesville branch is the third La Nopalera restaurant caught forcing their workers to work for only tips. The other two settlements—in Jacksonville—cost the owners $934,000.
DOL investigators also found that employees never received overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. In addition, employees were forced to work off the clock before and after shifts, and the restaurant failed to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
Under the settlement terms, 24 employees will receive $176,377 for minimum wages owed. Two employees also will receive an additional $1,558 in overtime back wages.
Note: As immigration has heated up as a political issue, federal enforcement agencies are paying close attention to how immigrants—both documented and undocumented—are being treated in the workplace. When exploitation of immigrant workers comes to light, employers can find themselves paying a significant public relations price along with back pay and penalties.