Westmoreland County Restaurateur Found to Have Violated Wage and Hour Laws 

October 17, 2022

Westmoreland County Restaurateur Found to Have Violated Wage and Hour Laws 

A Westmoreland County restaurant and its owner were found liable in a civil trial for underpaying servers and kitchen staff over a period of several years. 

Restaurant Owner Found Liable for Unpaid Wages

Picante LLC, its successor Picante Grille LLC, and its owner Helius Mucino were found liable for violating state and federal wage and hour laws, following a three-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The trial revealed that Mucino and the restaurant, the Picante Mexican Grille on Route 22, failed to pay any wages to servers, who were instead compensated solely through tips. The restaurant also failed to pay cooks, bussers, and dishwashers overtime pay from April 2014 through July 2017. The business also failed to keep proper payroll records.

Following the verdict, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a final judgment to obtain more than $429,000 in back wages and liquidated damages for employees. In an investigation that began in 2019, the Labor Department found that the restaurant failed to pay required overtime to various employees up until 2019. 

The federal court had also ruled that the sale of the restaurant from Picante LLC to Picante Grille LLC, which shared the same owners, did not absolve Picante Grille LLC from liability for wage and hour violations that occurred while the restaurant was owned by Picante LLC. 

Pennsylvania Wage and Hour Laws

In Pennsylvania, workers’ wage and hour rights are protected by the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law and by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Under state and federal law, workers must be paid at least a minimum hourly wage of $7.25. Workers are also entitled to be paid one and a half times their regular rate of pay for any hours over 40 that are worked in a seven-day workweek. 

For workers in tipped roles, such as restaurant servers, employers are entitled to take a tip credit of up to 40 percent of the worker’s regular rate of pay. For example, if a worker is paid minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, an employer must pay at least $2.83 per hour so long as the tips earned by the worker mean they are paid at least $7.25 per hour. If the worker fails to earn enough tips to reach $7.25 per hour, the employer must pay additional wages to ensure the worker is paid at least $7.25.

Under Pennsylvania law, employers are not required to provide meal or rest breaks to workers 18 and older. Employers are required to pay workers for employer-provided breaks of 20 minutes or less but do not need to pay for any breaks of more than 20 minutes when the employee is not working. Minors are entitled to a 30-minute break for every five consecutive hours worked. 

What to Do If You’ve Been Underpaid for Work

If you believe that your wage and hour rights have been violated, you can file a claim with the Pennsylvania Department of Wage and Industry or with the U.S. Department of Labor. The government can contact your employer to recover any unpaid wages you may be owed, and may file a suit against your employer if necessary. Employers who fail to pay unpaid wages within 60 days of a demand by the government may be required to pay an additional 25 percent of the wages owed to employees. 

You should also contact an employment law attorney to help you understand your legal options and advocate on your behalf if you need to pursue a claim for unpaid wages.

Contact a Pittsburgh Employment Lawyer to Discuss Your Case

Although Pennsylvania and federal labor laws are supposed to provide you with protection for your rights at work, it is not always easy to get the compensation, rights, and other benefits you deserve. That is why you should speak with a knowledgeable labor law lawyer about your situation and get guidance throughout the claims process. The experienced labor attorneys at Goodrich & Geist, P.C. represent clients in Pittsburgh and the surrounding Western PA counties. Call (412) 766-1455 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a consultation about your wage and hour violation case. Our main office is located at 3634 California Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.