The U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against Aspen restaurateur Craig Cordts-Pearce in Denver on Monday, alleging that he failed to pay overtime wages to 134 employees at his five local restaurants for a period covering 19 months.
Also named as defendants in the suit were his wife, Samantha, and his restaurant companies. The Cordts-Pearces currently own and operate four restaurants in Aspen: Brexi Brasserie, CP Burger, Steakhouse No. 316 and The Wild Fig. The fifth establishment mentioned in the suit was Above the Salt, which Cordts-Pearce shuttered last fall.
The federal complaint does not say how much is owed to the workers, who are not named as plaintiffs. Some of the employees listed in the government’s “Exhibit A,” which accompanies the lawsuit filing, are still working for the Cordts-Pearces. Their restaurants allegedly did not pay the workers for overtime between Nov. 23, 2011, and June 30, 2013.
Reached by phone on Monday afternoon, Craig Cordts-Pearce acknowledged that he has been negotiating with the labor department to settle the matter. He said that he did not know a complaint had been filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.
“I didn’t know anything happened today,” he said Monday. “We’ve been in contact with (the U.S. Department of Labor) and working with them for over a year. We hope to be able to resolve this soon.” He declined further comment.
The suit alleges that the Cordts-Pearces and their restaurants violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act pertaining to overtime compensation.
“Defendants violated the FLSA’s overtime provisions by paying hourly employees a straight wage rate for all hours worked, including hours worked over 40 in a work-week that should have been compensated at time-and-a-half the regular rate,” the complaint says.
In addition, according to the suit, the defendants “failed to make, keep and preserve adequate and accurate records of employees and the wage, hours and conditions and practices of employment maintained by them as prescribed by regulations” in the labor act.
The suit asks for a court judgment requiring the Cordts-Pearces and their restaurants to pay the overtime wages that are due to the listed employees, plus damages and interest.
Juan Rodriguez, a labor department spokesman in Dallas, said the lawsuit stems from a lengthy investigation into Aspen’s hospitality industry. The Cordts-Pearces weren’t the only local restaurateurs who allegedly violated the labor act’s overtime provisions. Aspen Skiing Co. recently agreed to pay $108,796 to 300 workers after the department’s investigation discovered violations of minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions contained within the act.
Rodriguez said he could not comment on what specifically prompted the investigation. He deferred to a statement he wrote concerning the Skico agreement to pay back wages and liquidated damages.
“The investigation was conducted under an enforcement initiative focused on strengthening compliance in Aspen’s hospitality industry,” the statement says. “That industry includes various businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, that employ many low-wage workers. The department has historically found significant labor violations in such establishments.”