Pot Luck

Local Taqueria Chain in Trouble with Department of Labor, Agrees to Pay Over $275,000 to Employees

Longtime Houstonians may know Taqueria Taconmadre as a solid local chain, as a good place to grab tacos into the wee hours of the night. But the U.S. Department of Labor knows Taconmadre as the subject of its most recent investigation into illegal and improper workplace practices.

A recent investigation by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that all three of Taconmadre's locations were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which -- in short -- regulates minimum wages, overtime and child labor laws. At Taconmadre, it was found that employees regularly received less than minimum wage and were required to work overtime without compensation.

"This employer took advantage of vulnerable workers by failing to pay them the federal minimum wage," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest, in a press release issued today.

"And employees worked up to 91 hours in a week without overtime compensation. These practices are illegal and unacceptable."

In addition to requiring employees to work overtime and illegally exempting them from FLSA laws (which made the employees "ineligible" for minimum wage), Taconmadre also illegally garnished employees' checks for expenses such as lost or broken items and uniform costs.

As a result of the investigation, Ernesto Enterprises Corp. and Jonathan Enterprises Corp., -- doing business as Taconmadre Mariachi & Grill -- agreed to pay $275,706 in back wages to 72 of its current and former employees.

A silver lining of the investigation is that Taconmadre cooperated fully during the investigation, according to the Department of Labor, and intends to remain in compliance from here on out.

And as a gentle reminder to other restaurants who might be pulling the same shenanigans: The federal minimum wage is $7.25. And you must pay time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond 40 per week, because you do not want to mess with the Department of Labor. Ever.

Between this news and that of the recent federal grand jury indictment against Mambo Seafood, we have to ask: Why are our local chains having such a hard time keeping their noses clean?

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