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A chain of Mexican restaurants with a Jacksonville location is paying more than $50,000 in back wages to employees, after federal authorities discovered some workers weren’t receiving minimum wage.

Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurants, a small chain with one location near the Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base, was not paying dishwashers and cooks at the federal minimum wage ($7.25), nor was it paying overtime, ac according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The underpayments affected 30 workers from December 2010 to December 2013 at the company’s eight Virginia locations (in Fredericksburg, Culpeper, Dahlgren and Stafford) and its sole North Carolina location at 2121 N. Marine Blvd. in Jacksonville.

Pancho Villa’s owners agreed to pay $57,446 in back wages to 30 employees, as well as a $6,600 fine.

Federal labor officials are looking for former employees of the restaurant. Those affected can all the Wage and Hour Division at (804) 771-2995.

Commentary

Cherie Berry 2It simply shouldn’t take a four-year herculean effort by an extraordinarily dedicated lawyer in order for a handful of average workers to get paid an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. Unfortunately, as this story by reporter Mandy Locke in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear, it does take such an effort these days in North Carolina where the state’s absurdly low-energy Labor/Elevator Commissioner Cherie Berry continues muddle along, doing as little as possible to protect the workers of our state.

As Locke reports:

“Every few months for nearly four years, Katharine Woomer-Deters had lugged a box full of records three blocks from her office to the Wake County courthouse. Inside it: all the proof and power she should have needed to force a Raleigh contractor to pay wages he owed to seven workers for labor in 2010.

Woomer-Deters and her employer, the N.C. Justice Center, have devoted tens of thousands of dollars worth of time and energy trying to get Robert Charleton Miller, owner of Raleigh construction company NC Contracting Inc., to pay the $14,000 he owed.

Finally, on Thursday, Woomer-Deters got what she needed: a payment from Miller. He signed an agreement to pay monthly until his debt is settled. He made his first installment Thursday.

It took the threat of jail and a stern judge to push Miller toward the settlement.”

And, of course, this latest development is just the latest in a scandalously long trail of cases in which employers across North Carolina have been failing to pay workers the wages and benefits to which they are entitled. As Locke reported last fall in her five-part “Contact to Cheat” investigation: “North Carolina is losing $467 million in annual tax revenue from the practice within the construction industry alone.”

Unfortunately, state Labor Commissioner Berry — the constitutional officer charged with protecting the workers of our state from such predations — continues to snooze away through her fourth full term in office, out of sight and out of mind. There’s no word yet on whether Berry intends to seek a fifth term in 2016, but if her somnambulant performance in office over the past decade and a half is any indication, she’ll probably mail in her decision.

Commentary

Cherie Berry 2It’s no secret that North Carolina state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has been doing the bidding of the state’s employer community for years. If there’s an important issue impacting the well-being of the state’s workers, you can always rest assured that Berry will either be: a) defending/making excuses  for employers or b) AWOL.

This latter description aptly summarizes Berry’s performance (or rather lack thereof) when it comes to the issue so thoroughly described in a recent series of Raleigh’s News & Observer: “Contract the cheat.”

Saturday’s editorial in the N&O neatly summarized the issue and Berry’s ongoing dereliction of her duties: Read More

Uncategorized

Malfunctioning elevators aren’t getting follow-up inspections, and labor inspectors didn’t check in on  companies who have gotten in trouble in the past to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws, according to a financial audit from N.C. State Auditor Beth Wood’s office.

The audit released Thursday by Wood’s office found that at the N.C. Department of Labor:

  • Only 3 percent of elevators found to be in violation of safety rules in 2012 had follow-up inspections
  • Penalties for elevator violations are nominal and rarely imposed
  • No follow-up reviews were conducted for 11 employers that violated wage and hour  laws

The N.C. Department of Labor is headed by Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, whose picture hangs in every elevator in the state as part of the annual inspection notice.

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry

The department is updating computer software to better track labor investigators work and ensure that follow-up reviews are done at both divisions, according to the agency’s response in the audit.

Read More

Uncategorized

Despite decades of media attention and lawsuits, North Carolina agricultural interests continue to frequently subject migrant workers to the kind of treatment one would associate with barnyard animals. A new Wake Forest University study offers the latest outrageous news on this subject. Here’s a news release sent out by the Justice Center this morning:

Wake Forest University Study Finds Violations Rampant in Migrant Housing

Study reveals multiple housing law violations at every camp inspected; advocates urging NCDOL to increase inspections of farm worker housing

RALEIGH (March 30, 2012) – A newly released study from the Center for Worker Health at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that migrant housing in North Carolina is plagued with Read More