Lawsuit claims grocery stores in Richfield owe $508K in wages, damages to employees

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing two grocery stores in Richfield for more than a half-million dollars, claiming they paid workers an “artificially” low rate to make it appear the workers were being paid properly for overtime hours.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota claims that San Miguel Enterprises LLC, operating as La Vaquita-Short Stop, and Jimenez Genao LLC, operating as La Vaquita-LV2, and the stores’ part-owner Mariela Jimenez, violated federal wage laws and denied overtime pay to 49 employees at the two locations.

The lawsuit says the stores are jointly owned and Jimenez manages the daily operations as well as payrolls.

The legal action stems from an investigation led by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, which reportedly found that “employers owe the affected workers $254,209 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.”

The lawsuit also states that Wage and Hour Division investigators reviewed payroll records of La Vaquita-Short Stop from July 8, 2020, through March 26, 2023, and of La Vaquita-LV2 from Nov. 9, 2020, through March 26, 2023, and found the company and Jimenez did the following:

  • Used an artificially low hourly rate of pay and mislabeled wages as discretionary bonuses to mask their failure to pay required overtime wages.
  • Did not pay overtime rates to employees who worked at both locations when their combined hours exceeded 40 hours in a workweek.
  • Incorrectly categorized certain employees as executive or administrative employees exempt from overtime when, in fact, they should have been paid overtime.
  • Failed to maintain accurate time records as required.

Wage and Hour Division District Director in Minneapolis Kristin Tout shared the following statement:

“Our investigation found Mariela Jimenez intentionally miscalculated wage rates to create the appearance she was complying with federal wage laws when, in fact, she was shortchanging employees at two Richfield grocery stores each pay period. The case shows that compliance with federal wage regulations is not open to interpretation or choice. It also demonstrates that the consequences for violating workers’ rights can be quite costly.”

Wage and Hour Division District Director in Minneapolis Kristin Tout

Anyone who believes they may be owed back wages can utilize a search tool and file a complaint.

Confidential compliance assistance can be found by calling the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-487-9243.