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Former Ruby Tequila's employees file lawsuit

One of Ruby Tequila's locations in Amarillo that unexpectedly shut down towards the end of July (ABC 7 Amarillo - Nataziah Gipson)

Former Ruby Tequila's employees filed a lawsuit Thursday, suing several people and companies associated with the popular Tex-Mex restaurant.

Ruby Tequila's shut its doors unexpectedly around the end of July. Before, the restaurant recently came under the new ownership of Fired Up Holding Company.

Fifty-five people who have been employed at two Amarillo and two Lubbock locations, filed the lawsuit based on the Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit says many of the employees have been denied minimum wage and overtime compensation for certain hours worked during the final 3-4 weeks before the closing. Out of the 55 who filed, 31 are from Amarillo.

Jeff Blackburn, an attorney representing the employees, said the restaurant closing was no accident.

"This is a case of these workers being deliberately victimized by a company for the sake of profit,” Blackburn said.

Jeremi Young, an attorney partnering with Blackburn for the case, said this is something he has never dealt with before.

“I’ve never had an employer walk in, shut down the entire operation, not pay employees for weeks and in some cases a month or more pay, because they’ve actually earned and provided that service to the employers," Young said. "They’ve done the work, just didn’t get their paycheck.”

Blackburn tells ABC 7 News several hundred of these workers depend on these paychecks.

"We are talking about people who have lost their homes, their cars, the ability to take care of their kids. We are talking about people who have not been able to make medical payments that they have needed to, whether themselves or their relatives," Blackburn said. "There is a long long line of people who have really been devastated by this.”

The attorneys said they are seeking full-damage under federal law and based on preliminary investigations, they think the total cost is around $500,000 before liquidated damages. Young said this number is just from the last 3-4 weeks that the employees were working and did not get paid.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, otherwise known as the WARN Act, is a labor law requiring employers to provide a 60 calendar-day advance notification of closings and mass layoffs of employees.

"Not one component of the WARN Act was complied within this case," Young said. "The restaurants just closed their doors.”

Blackburn said the closing is not only an economic loss, but a loss for all of the employees. Some of which, that have been apart of Ruby Tequila's for over 24 years.

"These are people that are members of this community, just like everybody else," Blackburn said. "These are our neighbors, these are people that we know everyday. They are not just out of work. They lost sometimes up to a month or even more of their labor. They were never paid for what they did.”

Blackburn said he wants to put this case together with as many people as possible, but also with as many facts as he can. He said if someone has been victimized in the same way as the workers suing Fired Up Holding Company Inc. have been, to call or reach out.

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