Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The Hacienda del Rio restaurant in Old Town has been ordered to pay $149,693.83 in back pay, damages and interest to 51 employees who maintained they were shorted, not paid at all, were issued bad checks and that unauthorized payroll deductions were taken from their paychecks.
State District Judge Joshua A. Allison issued a default judgment against the restaurant earlier this month.
The judgment stems from a 2019 lawsuit filed on behalf of the employees who alleged they were each shorted from $92 to $5,000. The lawsuit was filed by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, the city of Albuquerque and the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. It alleged Hacienda del Rio violated the state Minimum Wage Act, the Wage Payment Act and the City of Albuquerque Minimum Wage Ordinance.
The Journal on Friday was unable to reach anyone at the restaurant for comment. An online listing indicates the restaurant has closed and calls to the business’s phone did not go through.
“The judgment against the Hacienda del Rio defendants, one of the worst historical offenders of wage theft, sends an important message that the city will not hesitate to use all the tools at our disposal to address violations of workers’ rights and income,” City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. said in a news release issued Friday announcing the judgment.
“Rather than pay for an honest day’s work, a few bad actors chose to steal wages and tips from their employees,” Aguilar added. This practice affects the lowest wage workers, the people who can least afford to lose earnings, and increases workers’ reliance on public assistance.”
Ricky Serna, acting secretary of Workforce Solutions, said his department has a “zero tolerance stance on wage theft” and that “employees deserve to be paid fair wages that follow state and local area wage laws.”
District Attorney Raúl Torrez said in a separate statement: “I am proud of our partnership with the City of Albuquerque and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions that resulted in this historic judgment on behalf of working people. This case should also serve as a powerful warning to others that we will protect employees and make sure they receive an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”
It’s not the first time the owners of Hacienda del Rio have gotten crosswise with their workers. Four former employees filed a lawsuit alleging they had not been paid for all the hours they worked. District Judge Nancy Franchini in 2017 ruled that the restaurant owners were liable for unpaid wages of about $40,000.