Jose Luis Villarreal, an El Pasoan represented by Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project (PCRP), reached a monumental settlement with Los Gallegos Mexican Restaurant resulting in the payment of $32,500 in damages.
In February, PCRP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Villarreal (pictured above, front right) asking for thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime pay and other damages from the restaurant owner.
“I worked for Los Gallegos for nine years and always worked over forty hours per week. I asked the owner of Los Gallegos many times during my employment why he was not paying us our overtime hours,” said Mr. Villarreal, “In the end he fired me for standing up for my rights. In the restaurant industry, many workers are working from forty up to ninety-hour weeks without any overtime pay. It is time that restaurant owners pay their employees the overtime they deserve.”
After six months of litigation, Los Gallegos’ owner and Mr. Villarreal agreed to settle for an amount well over Mr. Villarreal’s unpaid overtime wages.
Mr. Villarreal, now a member of the local group, the Labor Justice Committee, is proud of the settlement. “People didn’t think I should fight for my wages. They thought it wouldn’t be worth the trouble and that I didn’t have rights. But this settlement shows that workers shouldn’t be scared of their employers. We can fight and we can win!” Mr. Villarreal exclaimed.
Restaurant employees must receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is time and a half of the promised hourly rate.
“Mr. Villarreal was a victim of systematic and severe overtime violations. This settlement should be a signal to the rest of the restaurant industry in El Paso that it is worth it to pay overtime to your employees or you will have to pay much more in court costs and fees,” said Chris Benoit, an attorney with Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project.