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Senor Tequila owners ordered to pay back wages, damages

Hospitality and Tourism
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The owners of several Mexican restaurants in the Lowcountry have been ordered to pay back wages and damages after an investigation by the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division found several violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Jaime Villalpando and Sandra Villalpando, who operate Senor Tequila Mexican Restaurant and Cantinas in Charleston, Summerville and Mount Pleasant, were ordered (.pdf) to pay $279,269 in back wages and liquidated damages to 68 employees after investigators found minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping violations between 2014 and 2017.

The Villalpandos paid an incorrect rate for overtime hours to tipped employees and failed to pay these employees for hours they worked before and after their scheduled shifts, according to a Department of Labor news release. They also failed to record all the hours employees worked and to maintain the required records.

The Villalpandos were also ordered to pay $52,615 in civil penalties.

This is not the first time Senor Tequila has run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 2014, the restaurant settled a lawsuit filed by former employees who alleged that the Villalpandos unlawfully took a portion of their tips, according to court records; and in 2016, Jaime Villalpando was sentenced to five months in prison and paid $76,000 in restitution for making a false statement to the department in a scheme to avoid paying back wages.

“The employers have violated the FLSA previously and are aware of the wage laws and their obligation to pay employees for all hours they have worked,” Jamie Benefiel, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Columbia District Office, said in the release. “The U.S. Department of Labor will hold accountable those employers that continue to violate the law.”

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