Texas barbecue restaurant workers get more than $230K recovered in back wages

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $230,353 in back wages for 274 workers employed by Black’s Barbecue Inc.

This comes after an investigation found the employer gave a portion of employee tips to restaurant managers, a practice not allowed by federal law.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Black’s Barbecue Inc.; Kent Black’s Lockhart Barbecue Inc. and New Braunfels Barbecue LLC – all with the same ownership and operating as Black’s Barbecue restaurant – kept a portion of the employees’ tips and shared them with managers illegally. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employers, managers and supervisors from keeping tips the business’ employees receive for any purposes, whether the employer takes a tip credit.

Black’s Barbecue Inc. and Kent Black’s Lockhart Barbecue Inc. has operated for three generations in Texas. In addition to Lockhart, the employer has locations in Austin, New Braunfels and San Marcos.

In 2021, the division identified nearly $35 million in back wages owed to more than 29,000 food service industry workers.

Black's Barbecue responds to recovery of back wages

Black's Barbecue posted a video on social media and also released a statement following the report. 

In the video, Barrett Black and Kent Black expressed love for their team and say that they "missed a rule change that affects how tips are distributed" and says a company that does their payroll missed that rule change as well. They add they're "taking responsibility" for it and that the Dept. of Labor found the mistake when looking at the way they pay their staff and the Blacks say they quickly corrected it.

Kent Black says they are now in full compliance and there are no penalties issued by the Dept. of Labor because they voluntarily fixed the issue immediately.

The Blacks called it a "gut punch" that they missed the rule, They say their staff is important to them and that there was no malicious intent and said it was an "honest mistake."

Barrett and Kent go on to apologize for what happened and say they take full responsibility. 

They say they've worked to track down former employees so that they are compensated just like current employees have been.

Kent Black also released a written statement following the report that said:

"Black’s Barbecue has always paid 100% of all tips to all of their employees based on current laws and rules. The company and the owners of the company have never received any tips.

Black’s BBQ was not aware that Department of Labor (DOL) rules had recently changed in 2020 and that managers should not receive tips.

Our payroll has always been outsourced, and we relied on the HR company for advice. When notified of the rule change, we quickly and voluntarily came into compliance with DOL.

All hourly employees, both current and former were fully compensated for everything they were owed with company funds. This issue was resolved with DOL in 2021."