$181,000 in Overtime Back Wages to be Paid to Pizzeria Employees

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained court judgments that require three commonly managed Long Island pizzerias, each doing business as Gino’s Pizza Pasta Restaurant, to pay 61 employees a total of $181,544 in overtime back wages. The court orders also require the defendants to pay $22,002 in civil money penalties to the government for willfully violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

“This case is typical of the violations found in the restaurant industry affecting the most vulnerable workers, many of whom are not native English speakers and may not be aware of their rights under federal law,” said Irv Miljoner, director of the Long Island District Office of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, located in Westbury. “Our goals are to aggressively enforce the FLSA to achieve fair treatment for all employees and create a level playing field for companies that obey the law, while providing a disincentive for those that choose to violate the law.”

Following investigations conducted by the Wage and Hour Division, the department filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Delite Restaurant & Pizzeria of Bellmore Inc., 2837 Jerusalem Ave., Bellmore; Massapequa Park Pizza Inc., 5159 Merrick Road, Massapequa; and The Best Pizzeria Restaurant Inc., 3968 Hempstead Turnpike, Bethpage. Also named as defendants are Emilio Branchinelli, president of all three companies; Anthony Greco, vice president of the companies; and Mohamed Soliman, secretary of The Best Pizzeria Restaurant Inc.

The investigations disclosed that the defendants had violated the FLSA by paying some low-wage workers “straight time” wages for all hours worked, rather than time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours exceeding 40 per week, as required. In addition, the employers had devised a system of falsifying timecards in order to claim workers were being paid accurate wages, in violation of the FLSA’s record-keeping provisions. Investigators discovered that employees never received the overtime compensation listed on the falsified timecards; on the contrary, workers were paid in cash and “off the books” for hours worked over 40 per week.

In addition to the overtime requirement, the FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Employers who violate these provisions are liable to their workers for the full amount of unpaid wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.

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