$780,000 in Back Wages and Penalties in FLSA Case from Long Island Pizzeria

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Note:  FLSA cases are costing employers tremendous amounts of money each year.  What is the solution? #1:  Get educated!  #2: Train your employees!  #3:  Proactively do an audit before the DOL finds you!

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $780,000 in back wages and liquidated damages for 40 employees of Martino’s Pizzeria Inc., doing business as Mama’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, in Copiague, N.Y., resolving a lawsuit filed against the company for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The court’s judgment prohibits the company and owners Gaetano and Grace Pinello from future violations of the FLSA; orders the immediate payment of $390,000 in minimum wage and overtime back wages, and another $390,000 in liquidated damages; and requires an additional $20,000 in civil money penalties be paid to the government for willful violations of the law.

An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division Long Island District Office in Westbury, N.Y., found that several restaurant employees were required to work 70 to 80 hours in many weeks without overtime compensation and were paid less than the federal minimum wage for all hours worked.  The defendants paid their employees partly in cash off the books, and kept no time or payroll records indicating their employees’ work hours, tips, wages and other conditions of employment, as required by the FLSA.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as one and one-half times their regular hourly rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week.  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.

The Labor Department’s suit was filed by its New York Regional Solicitor’s Office with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. As part of the judgment, the defendants are ordered to abide by a compliance plan requiring them to keep accurate records of the hours worked by their employees and prohibiting them from making improper deductions from employees’ wages.  The plan also requires the defendants to ensure that all managers and employees are properly trained with regard to their respective rights and responsibilities under the FLSA.  Training must be provided in both English and Spanish.

Additionally, employees must be given copies of the following documents in their choice of English or Spanish:  a copy of the compliance plan, the Labor Department flyer “Employee Rights Under the Fair Labor Standards Act” and the Labor Department’s “Fact Sheet #23: Overtime Pay Requirements of the FLSA.”  These are to be provided to existing employees at the time of the required training and to new employees when they are hired.  The defendants also must display the poster in English and Spanish in conspicuous places throughout their establishments for their employees to view.

For more information about the provisions of the FLSA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or contact the division’s Long Island office at 516-338-1890.  Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.

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