Labor Dept.: Don Gallo Restaurants owes $29,000 in back wages

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Knoxville restaurant has agreed to pay nearly $30,000 in back wages to 43 employees following an investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

Don Gallo Mexican Grill LLC and Specialty Food Marketing LLC, which owns Don Gallo, Las Limas Mexican Restaurant, and Don Gallo Mexican Cuisine, will end up paying $29,061 after investigators found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, minimum wage, and record-keeping provisions, the Labor Dept. announced on Friday.

“At all three Don Gallo restaurant locations we found many low-wage employees working long hours, without any overtime compensation, and at times earning wages far below the federal minimum wage." said Sandra Sanders, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Nashville District Office.

"Unfortunately, these types of labor violations are all too common in the restaurant industry,” she added.

Eduardo Lopez, who owns Don Gallo Mexican Cuisine, was also fined $2,431 for repeat violations.

According to the Labor Dept., many of the kitchen employees were improperly classified as exempt from overtime pay and were paid a fixed monthly salary. It noted that in several instances the wages ended up amounting to less than the minimum wage. Investigators found that several tipped employees were not compensated enough to meet minimum wage guidelines that they earn at least $7.25/hour, including tips.

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