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Santa Fe restaurant held liable for unpaid OT wages

SANTA FE — A now-former Santa Fe District Court judge has ruled that a Santa Fe Japanese restaurant did not properly compensate three employees for overtime and has ordered the restaurant to pay more than $58,000 in damages.

David Thomson, sworn in as a state Supreme Court justice earlier this week, issued a ruling on Friday that orders the owners of Shohko Cafe on Johnson Street to pay three employees — Wilmer Alexander Gaytan, Victor Matzir and Luis Ramirez — all the lost wages plus an amount equal to double the lost pay.

The judge found that the restaurant owner, Fukuda Family, LLC, paid the employees legal hourly wages, the workers did not get overtime pay they were due.

“While overtime hours appeared on some of the Defendants’ payroll records and on some of Plaintiffs’ respective pay stubs from Defendant, Plaintiffs were only paid at a regular rate of pay instead of time-and-a-half for some or all of those overtime hours,” Thomson wrote.

The complaint was filed in April 2017, and a bench trial was held last July. The plaintiffs were represented by lawyers from immigrant rights group Somos un Pueblo Unido.

“The judge’s decision sends a clear message to restaurant owners who believe they can engage in wage theft without any consequences,” Somos staff attorney Gabriela Ibañez Guzmán said in a news release. “Employers who pay their workers less than the minimum wage, fail to pay overtime or take away an employee’s tips will be held accountable.”

No one could be reached at Shohko Cafe by phone Wednesday afternoon. Shohko’s lawyer, Trent Howell, could also not be reached for comment.

Under New Mexico’s anti-wage theft laws, employers can be held liable for an additional amount equal to twice the unpaid or underpaid wages of an employee.