A federal investigation found a Central Texas food chain violated a year-old law by reallocating $230,353 in tips from servers to managers, taking away earned wages from more than 270 employees – the U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday.

Several Black’s Barbecue locations in  Austin, New Braunfels, Lockhart and San Marcos were targeted by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division investigation resulting from a 2019 audit and a federal labor rule change making it illegal to share employee-earned tips with managerial staff.

Kent Black, grandson of original Black’s Barbecue pit master Edgar Black Sr. and current member of the Black’s ownership group, told the Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, Tuesdaythe company outsourced its payroll and was unaware of the rule revision that mangers should not take tips.

“We’re barbecue experts, we’re not payroll experts,” Black said. “We weren’t closely following that, and apparently our payroll company did not pick up on that.”

The Labor Department said Monday that the illegally shared wages had been recovered.

“Food service industry employers must know that tips are the property of tipped employees who earn them, plain and simple,” said Nicole Sellers, Wage and Hour Division district director in Austin. “Workers and their families depend on their rightfully earned wages and benefits. If you take from them, you take from their families.”

Nation:A diner used servers’ tip money to pay its bussers’ wages, probe finds. Now it has to pay $1.35 million.

South Carolina:Officials order restaurant to pay over $624,000 in back wages over tip pool violations

In 2018, legislative changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act made it illegal for employers to keep employee tips under any circumstances. The changes were then instituted by the Labor Department in 2020 before going into effect in April 2021.