An Ohio restaurant 'forced' servers to work 60 hours a week for just $10 in wages plus tips, the Department of Labor says
- A Mexican restaurant in Ohio paid its servers just $10 a week plus tips, a DOL investigation found.
- Servers were "forced" to cash their paychecks then pay their wages back in cash, the DOL said.
A restaurant in Ohio made its servers work for just $10 a week plus tips, the Department of Labor said after concluding an investigation.
The DoL said its investigation found that the owner of Los Mariachis, a Mexican restaurant in Wauseon, northwest Ohio, "forced" servers to cash their paychecks and then pay their wages back to him in cash.
Servers, who worked an average of 60 hours a week, were only allowed to keep the tips they earned plus $20 per two-week pay period, the DOL said.
By providing servers with paychecks and ordering them to then cash them in and pay most of the money back, the restaurant may have been attempting to disguise wrongdoing, the investigation said.
Ohio uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for small companies, though businesses with annual gross receipts of $372,000 or more have to pay at least $10.10 an hour.
Tipped workers eligible for the $7.25 minimum wage have to take home at least $2.13 an hour in pay from the restaurant, or $5.05 for tipped workers eligible for the $10.10 minimum wage, with the rest made up in tips.
Cooks at Los Mariachis, on the other hand, were paid a straight salary for all 60 of the hours they worked each week, instead of being given an overtime premium of one-and-a-half times their usual hourly wage for hours worked over 40 per week, the DOL said.
The DOL said that Los Mariachis had also failed to keep accurate time and payroll records.
The restaurant was ordered to pay $245,509 in back wages to six servers and 12 cooks.
Los Mariachis didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, made outside of regular working hours.
Matthew Utley, the district director of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division for Columbus, Ohio, said in a statement on Tuesday that the payments would "make a significant difference in the lives of 18 Los Mariachis' workers and their families."
"No server should be forced to work for just tips and $10 per week, and no cook should be paid straight time for 20 hours of overtime," Utley added.
Low wages, lack of benefits, and poor working conditions pushed millions of US restaurant workers to quit their jobs in the wake of the pandemic. Many were laid off as restaurants were forced to close during lockdowns, too.
Employment in the industry has since rebounded and is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, with just over 12 million people working in food services and at drinking places in January, per data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A combination of soaring inflation and changes in the job market has pushed wages up significantly.
According to BLS data, waiters and waitresses in Ohio earned a mean hourly wage of $11.45 an hour as of May 2021. This is the most recent data available.
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