An Oregon restaurant owner who was once the victim of wage theft has been charged with defrauding his employees of tips and overtime, according to the Department of Labor. But the restaurateur says the allegations are false and called the Labor Department investigation unfair.
Miguel Chi-Jul, owner and operator of Casa Maya, a taqueria and cantina in Portland, is accused of changing payroll records, refusing overtime employees and keeping some of the workers’ advice to themselves, the Labor Department said in a news release.
During an investigation, the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Chee-Dzul “denied 31 workers a total of $94,177 in tips and back wages,” according to the release.
The agency collected $188,354 in back wages and workers’ compensation and assessed $11,292 in civil penalties due to the “willful nature” of the alleged violations, the release said.
“Restaurant workers are often among the lowest paid in our country, and they depend on every dollar they earn for hours worked and tips for providing good service to their customers,” said Carrie Aguilar, Director of Wage and working hours of the Ministry of Labor. in the statement. “This amplifies the economic impact of Chi-Jul’s thefts on his employees, each of whom has a legal right to be paid their hard-earned wages.”
Chi-Jul said in an email to McClatchy News that he disagreed with the department’s findings.
“During the investigation, it felt like (the Department of Labor) was biased against me, trying to get me and doing everything they could to get me to settle,” Chi-Jul wrote. “They refused to share the basis of their findings with me or my attorney so that we could effectively address them and have a meaningful dialogue with (the Department of Labor) about the allegations. They even threatened me with new charges if I tried to contact my employees as witnesses.”
Chi-Jul said he accepted the settlement because he did not have the financial resources to take his case to trial. He said his decision to plead was to preserve his business and was “in no way an admission of wrongdoing.”
According to the Labor Department, investigators found Chi-Jul denied overtime to some employees who worked up to 25 hours of overtime per week. He sometimes deleted overtime records to hide the fact that he was not paying workers the required amount, the release said.
Chi-Jul had previously been a victim of wage theft while working as a restaurant worker, the department said. In 2018, the agency reimbursed him for $831 in overtime he earned from his then-employer, who investigators said regularly altered payroll records to hide the fact that employees weren’t being paid for the time they worked, according to the report. the release says.
During that investigation, the agency recovered a total of $14,758 for the four workers, according to the release. The name of the business was not disclosed in the release.
“Chi-Jul suffered wage theft as a restaurant worker, but – when he was in a position to do right by his own workers – he chose to inflict even more financial suffering on the people who trusted him as their employer, and then tried to cover it up” , – said Aguilar. “This case serves as yet another unfortunate reminder that wage theft is a common and serious problem for workers in the restaurant industry, many of whom are vulnerable and afraid to complain.”
But Chi-Jul wrote that as a restaurant owner, he strives to create a respectful workplace that operates in accordance with all laws.
“I am proud of what my team and I have done to serve our community during a very difficult time for small businesses and restaurants during the pandemic,” he wrote. “I just hope that our customers and the people of Portland don’t take what the (Department of Labor) is saying at face value, they realize there’s a lot more to this story.”
This story was originally published January 9, 2023 at 6:52 p.m.
Federal authorities say the restaurateur is accused of defrauding workers of wages
Source link Federal authorities say the restaurateur is accused of defrauding workers of wages