Jury Awards Worker $84,520 For Unpaid Overtime and Retaliation

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2008

Contact: Kathryn Youker, Attorney
956.447.4802
kyouker@trla.org
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director
512.374.2764
cmartinez@trla.org

WESLACO, Texas – A local jury has awarded Rio Grande Valley resident Jose Lopez $84,520 in a lawsuit against Danny’s Mexican Restaurant for unpaid overtime and retaliation.

Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the leading provider of legal aid in Texas, Jose Lopez was a cook at Danny’s Mexican Restaurants for ten years.  In July 2007 he filed a lawsuit against the Mission chain of the restaurant, owned by Daniel and Graciela Ramirez, for failing to pay him overtime and firing him after he demanded that he be paid the correct wages.  During his employment, Lopez worked between fifty-eight and seventy-four hours per week but was only paid seven dollars per hour.

According to the lawsuit, the restaurant had workers use multiple time cards to avoid recording overtime and then paid workers in cash for their extra hours and at their regular hourly wage.  They also destroyed wage and hour records.

According to TRLA attorney Kathryn Youker, “Employers who fail to pay overtime are taking advantage of their employees and businesses that comply with the law.  It has never been good for business or for the economy to exploit workers.”

A jury found that the restaurant willfully failed to pay overtime wages and fired Lopez as a result of his wage demands.  As a result, they awarded him $84,520 for unpaid overtime, lost income, and damages.

In response to the award, Lopez stated, “Workers in this country have rights. Sometimes we just accept what employers give us, but we need to open our eyes and demand that companies don’t take advantage of us.  In this case, justice was done.”

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.

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