By Kristen L. Brightmire
So what happened to cause Judge Dowdell to declare a jury’s verdict so unreasonable it had to be thrown out, a decision by the way which the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has just upheld? It’s an interesting story.
If you are from the Tulsa area, you are undoubtedly familiar with the El Tequila restaurants. In December 2010, an employee lodged a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (DOL) which prompted an investigation into its Harvard location. As is often the case, a time was set for the DOL investigator to report, review records, and interview certain employees. As a result of this initial investigation, all seemed fine but for some recordkeeping violations. The investigation was closed.
In the following months, more employees complained. The DOL opened a second investigation. This round, the DOL decided a surprise visit was warranted. Lo and behold, the DOL discovered a different set of records revealing violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employees were not being paid minimum wage or overtime for the hours they were working. The records the DOL had reviewed previously had been doctored.
The employee interviews were different as well. The employees not only said they worked hours for which they were not properly compensated, they told the DOL investigator they had been instructed by owner Aguirre to lie during the first investigation.