MASON CITY, Iowa- More than 100 employees at four Las Palmas restaurants in both Iowa and Minnesota are getting back pay after the US Department of Labor said the restaurant wasn’t paying them properly.
On Friday, one of the owners of the Mason City branch apologized to the employees and the community.
“I came from Mexico and always wanted to get in to the restaurant business,” said Benjamin Alberto, part owner of the Mason City Las Palmas. “I just worked the way I knew how.”
Alberto said he knew something was wrong before the US Department of Labor investigation, which is why he left the business for nearly a year.
“In partnerships, everybody thinks differently,” he said.
He explained that the US Department of Labor came in this last spring and told them they had too many salaried employees.
“They said you can’t be salaried unless you are a manager,” he said. “I’m glad we know that now.”
The investigation also showed that the restaurant was making employees pay for their uniforms out of their wages, but Alberto said once they were told to pay the nearly $130,000 in back pay they started making changes.
“Everybody gets regular wages now,” he said. “You get minimum wage up to 40 hours and time and a half after that.”
Attorneys we spoke with about the issue said this happens more often than people might think and the topic is always being discussed at the capital.
“The employers want to stay in business and want to make a profit,” said Joel Yunek of Yunek Lawfirm. “The employees want a living wage and need the employers to stay in business; it is very much a balancing act.
Alberto said he is happy with how the business is being run now and apologizes to the community and his workers.
“I’m glad it happened,” he said. “Everybody is getting paid the way they should.”
Alberto said they are already paying off the $130,000 in back pay to the Department of Labor. He also said all four stores were hit with a fine. He wouldn’t say how much that was, but described it as hefty.
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