Manteca restaurant owner will pay $875K for not paying overtime

The owner of the four La Estrella Tacos & Seafood restaurants in Manteca will pay $824,405 in back wages and damages to 102 workers for failing to pay them overtime, according to a U.S. Labor Department news release.

The department also assessed $50,320 in civil penalties against restaurant owner Juan Francisco Fonseca based on what the release called the “willful nature of the violations.”

A Labor Department spokesman said in an email that Fonseca reached an administrative agreement with the department’s wage and hour division to pay the nearly $875,000. The agreement was based on the division’s investigation.

But Fonseca’s attorney, Raquel Hatfield, said in an email that the Department of Labor’s release misrepresents the investigation’s findings and that La Estrella Tacos & Seafood paid employees overtime.

La Estrella & Seafood and Foncesa “agreed to settle the matter for purposes of avoiding costs and attorney’s fees associated with appealing the findings of the U.S. Department of Labor,” according to Hatfield’s email. “The details of the settlement and why it was reached are confidential. La Estrella Tacos & Seafood did provide overtime pay to its employees.”

The Labor Department spokesman said the investigation covered Dec. 9, 2019, to Dec. 8, 2022. The release states Fonseca owes the employees $412,202 in overtime and an equal amount in penalties.

“Division investigators found the employer tried to avoid paying overtime by creating different corporations and not combining the hours worked at multiple locations for purposes of overtime pay calculations,” according to the release. “Some employees who worked up to 26 overtime hours per week were paid at their regular rates of pay.”

Workers who are not being paid overtime despite being entitled to it or are not being paid the minimum wage can file a complaint with the Labor Department’s wage and hour division at 1-866-487-9243. More information is available at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.