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“As It Turned Out, A Single Call Made All The Difference” - A Server’s ‘Plea For Help Leads To $1.2 Million In Back Wages’

Published Monday, May 23, 2022
by Brian Cleasby/The U.S. Department of Labor
“As It Turned Out, A Single Call Made All The Difference” - A Server’s ‘Plea For Help Leads To $1.2 Million In Back Wages’

(DERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE) - Diego Jimenez worked long hours as a Server at La Carreta Mexican Restaurant in Derry, New Hampshire for over four years.  Diego regularly worked more than 50 hours a week, serving customers and cleaning the restaurant, but the only compensation he received for his hard work were the tips paid by restaurant patrons.

“I took pride in the level of service I provided to my customers,” said Jimenez, “but working only for tips made it so much harder for me to meet my family’s basic needs.”

A native Spanish speaker, Jimenez thought his Immigrant background may have factored into his employer’s decision to not pay him any wages.

While Jimenez wanted to be paid the hourly and overtime wages owed to him under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), he hesitated to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Wage and Hour Division while still employed by the restaurant.

Jimenez then found other work prospects and left La Carreta.

This new job gave him the security he’d been looking for and the confidence he needed to contact the Division for assistance.

Following an investigation and subsequent court action by the Department, Jimenez will receive $134,864 in back wages and damages from his former employer.

“I am so glad there are Federal Labor Laws to help protect Workers like myself.  Receiving this back pay is life-changing for my family.  We are looking to purchase a home now and the wages retrieved by the Wage and Hour Division are making that possible,” he said.

Jimenez’s decision to contact the division for help was felt far beyond his personal situation.

As word of the La Carreta investigation spread, USDOL Investigators received information that led to the investigation of additional businesses.

These enforcement efforts ultimately resulted in the USDOL recovering $1,266,997 for 149 Low-Wage Workers.

As it turned out, a single call made all the difference.

Regrettably, Jimenez’s experience is all too common.  

Food Service Workers often lose wages when employers keep their tips, pay on a tips-only basis, deduct meal costs from wages for dine-and-dash patrons, and withhold overtime from salaried Kitchen Staff that qualify for overtime pay.

The law requires these employers to pay cash wages - in addition to tips earned and provide overtime pay to all Workers who qualify, regardless of whether they’re paid a salary.

Vulnerable Workers in the Food Services Industry should know the FLSA has strong anti-retaliation provisions to protect Workers who contact the USDOL and Workers don’t have to wait to leave their job and find another before they reach out for help.

These provisions and wage protections apply to Workers regardless of their Immigration status.

For more information about the Wage and Anti-Retaliation Provisions of the FLSA, Workers and employers can call the USDOL confidentially.

The USDOL can speak with callers in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free help-line at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

Also, Workers and employers can check out the Restaurant Compliance Assistance Toolkit for resources and guidance compiled specifically for the Restaurant Industry.

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