Mexican restaurant in Lake Norman area shorted workers $80K in overtime pay, feds say

A Mexican restaurant in the Lake Norman area shorted its cooks, dishwashers and bussers more than $80,000 in overtime pay, federal investigators said Thursday.

Brawi Inc., operating as La Unica Mexican Restaurant in Huntersville, paid $82,398 in back wages and related damages to 10 employees for violating overtime requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a U.S. Department of Labor news release.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that some of the restaurant’s workers were paid “flat salaries” each week, regardless of how many hours they worked.

La Unica also violated federal law by failing to record the number of hours each employee worked, according to the department.

“Paying a set salary does not excuse employers from having to pay overtime to nonexempt employees who work more than 40 hours per week,” Richard Blaylock, the Wage and Hour Division district director based in Raleigh, said in the release.

“This investigation should serve as an opportunity for other employers to evaluate their pay practices to ensure that they are operating in compliance,” Blaylock said.

Brawi president Martin Alcantar could not be reached by the Observer on Thursday.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.