Amarillo, TX - Although the U.S. Labor Department released news of an $800,000 fine following an investigation of the Big Texan Steak Ranch, the company said the fine had already been paid to 279 former and current employees for wage withholding.
The DOL said the Big Texan violated the Fair Labor Standard Act's minimum wage and record keeping provisions.
According to the report released today, the company's violations came from an illegal tip pooling arrangement, withholding employee tips to be used for business expenses.
The Big Texan said the report's violations were based on an improper documentation system.
Bobby Lee, Co-Owner of Big Texan Steak Ranch, said the documentation practice of which the company was fined with in 2011 is the same system the company is using today.
He said the problem came from improper documentation.
Lee said they were not documenting tips on the payroll checks and didn't have it in their policy books.
He also says other reports of wrongdoing are not true.
As far as tips being held back to accommodate Big Texan businesses expenses, Lee said every penny in the tip pool went to all persons entitled to the tips.
For the past 54 years, Lee said he has treated his 250 employees like family.
Because of this the company agreed to pay the fines enforced by the DOL.
Lee said the Big Texan has had some of the same employees for 33 years who are not going anywhere.
He is saddened the investigation has caused some grief for the company, but is said he is certain the company will always be a part of Amarillo.
According to Lee, this is a first time the company has had any kind of dealings whatsoever with the DOL.
He said their methods are strict, but knows what they did administratively was not right.
Lee said the company has since complied with the DOL's documentation process.
He also said the case was settled in September, paying the entire sum of fees; $650,000 in minimum wage back wages and $150,000 in liquidated damages to his employees.