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Chain restaurant with 3 Pittsburgh-area locations agrees to pay $11.4 million in back wages, damages to more than 1,000 employees

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A Mexican chain restaurant with three locations in the Pittsburgh area agreed to pay $11.4 million in back wages and damages to more than 1,000 employees after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The department's Wage and Hour Division said several Plaza Azteca Mexican restaurants paid back-of-the-house employees predetermined amounts, meaning some employees weren't paid minimum wage for working up to 40 hours a week and some weren't paid time-and-a-half for overtime. 

The business is also accused of failing to maintain accurate records of work hours and wages as required. 

"Our investigators found Plaza Azteca knew of its legal obligations to pay workers minimum wage and overtime and keep accurate payroll records and yet, willfully disregarded federal law," said Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman in a news release. "The employers failed to pay full wages to more than 1,000 employees. The court's action in this case is an important step in our efforts to make a meaningful difference in the lives of these workers by recovering their hard-earned wages."

The $11.4 million recovery is related to a consent judgment that resolves litigation at more than 40 Plaza Azteca Mexican restaurants owned by Ruben Leon in seven states. After an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division, the department said it filed a complaint alleging Leon and the restaurants violated overtime and minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

The employers agreed to the consent judgment after months of litigation and just before a jury trial was scheduled to begin, the Department of Labor said. The company also has to pay $625,000 in penalties. 

In the Pittsburgh area, Plaza Azteca has locations in Robinson Township, White Oak and Washington. 

The Department of Labor said the back wages and damages are due to certain current and former employees, regardless of their immigration status. Affected employees are encouraged to call the division at 215-861-5180 with any questions.

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