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New Mexico reaches settlement in 2017 wage-theft complaint after prolonged legal battle

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico labor regulators on Tuesday announced a legal settlement that resolves longstanding accusations of unpaid wages against a restaurant business in northwestern New Mexico.

The Workforce Solutions Department said in a news release that 505 Burgers Farmington LLC has agreed to pay out $100,000 to resolve claims by two former employees that they received only a small portion of the wages they were due for more than 3,000 hours of work, including overtime.

The settlement resolves a complaint originally filed in 2017 by Francisco and Sandra Olivas with the state labor relations division that wound its way through an administrative investigation before going to trial in 2022. The New Mexico Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the employer before a final settlement was reached.

505 Burgers owner Morgan Newsom declined to comment on the settlement when contacted Tuesday.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Sarita Nair said her agency strives to provide education and training to businesses to ensure employees are paid fairly.

“But when prevention does not work, our capable team will pursue these cases for workers, no matter how long it takes," she said in a statement.

New Mexico workplace regulators have struggled in the past to keep pace with complaints of alleged wage theft linked to enforcement of the state’s minimum wage law.

The state labor relations division said it collected more than $689,000 during the 12-month period ending in June 2023 for New Mexico workers claiming underpayment or nonpayment of wages. Most of the complaints have raised allegations of unpaid overtime, failure to pay minimum wage and an employer withholding a final paycheck.