WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) – A North Carolina Department of Labor investigation discovered that a popular group of pizza restaurants in North Carolina denied its employees’ full wages, overtime pay and took their tips.

According to the investigation, Cugino Forno paid as little as $1.19 per hour as a cash wage to workers in their Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Clemmons locations.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division also determined that all three locations collected customer tips left for workers and used them to pay other employees’ wages, which violates minimum wage laws. Cugino Forno failed to pay the required overtime rate when applicable.

There was a total of $276,048 in back wages owed to the affected workers.

“Restaurant employees work hard, often for low wages, and many depend on the tips they receive from customers for good service to make ends meet,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Employers are obligated to pay their workers all their legally earned wages. Those who do not respect their workers’ rights will likely struggle to retain and recruit the people they need to remain competitive, as workers look for opportunities with employers that do.”