North End Cafe Sign on Building

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The U.S. Department of Labor is suing the operators of the two North End Café restaurants in Louisville, alleging at least 18 employees were not paid overtime despite working more than 40 hours in a week at the restaurants since 2016.

The violations date back “at least” to Jan. 5, 2016, according to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 14 in federal court in Louisville.

After an investigation, the labor department's Wage and Hour Division found that the restaurants owe employees $131,409 in unpaid wages, plus an equal amount in damages, totaling $262,819, according to a department spokesman.

The department would not comment on what prompted its investigation.

John Walters, a Lexington attorney representing North End Café, said the case centers on whether the two restaurants – at 2116 Bardstown Road in the Highlands and 1722 Frankfort Avenue in Clifton – are a single employer for purposes of determining overtime.

In other words, should employees who work at both locations within the same week be paid time-and-a-half for any hours over 40, regardless of the location? The owners contend that the restaurants are distinct employers, Walters said.

He declined to comment further.

Alcohol licenses show the restaurants are operated under separate limited liability companies but share the same partners -- Christopher S. Seckman, Walton H. Jones and Whitney F. Jones.

The lawsuit seeks back wages for the employees for at least two years.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.