Now-closed El Gordito restaurant under investigation for failing to pay minimum wage

THE SHUTTERED EL GORDITO restaurant is under investigation for allegations it failed to pay minimum wage or overtime to its workers before closing in 2023.

By ELIZABETH DONALD
Illinois Correspondent

A now-closed Illinois restaurant is under investigation for allegations it failed to pay minimum wage to its workers.

El Gordito restaurant was in business in Belleville from 2010 until it closed in 2023, operated by owners Patricia and Samuel Gonzalez Lara. As its former location is being taken over by a new restaurant, 11 workers identified only by initials and last names are suing for compensation after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found they had not been paid minimum wage or overtime as required by law.

The complaint, filed in May in the Southern District of the U.S. District Court, seeks $150,000 in wages and another $150,000 in damages from Gordo Corp. It was filed by Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.

The suit also alleges that El Gordito did not keep accurate records of hours worked and underreported those hours; failed to pay the tipped wage of $2.13 per hour, often paying no wages at all; and making up their hours and tips so paychecks would be close to zero, among other alleged violations.

“We will not tolerate employers violating federal wage laws by making up hours worked and tips received in order to make it appear that they did not owe their servers any wages,” said Wage and Hour District Director Noah Lee, based at the Department of Labor in St. Louis. “Employers are legally responsible for knowing and complying with federal wage laws.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division recovered more than $29 million in back wages for workers in the food service industry nationwide in fiscal year 2023, according to the department’s statement.

For more information on federal employment laws involving wage and hours, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s wages and hours website at https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages.


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