The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against , its owner and two managers for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages and maintain accurate records as well as retaliating against employees who cooperated with the department's investigation.
Investigators, who examined the restaurant's pay practices over a three-year period ending in August 2011, determined that owner Alphonse Silvestri owed approximately $138,000 in overtime back wages to 11 employees as well as $26,000 to eight employees who were fired for cooperating with the investigation, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The lawsuit (available on the right) states that Silvestri and his two managers, Richard Mayfield and Fidel Chacon, violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The department asks for an additional $15,400 in civil money penalties against the defendants for willfully violating the Act's overtime and non-retaliation provisions after Silvestri refused to pay the workers following the investigation.
The eight workers who cooperated with the investigation were fired in July 2011, according to court documents.
“This lawsuit sends a clear message to all employers that we will take action to protect the rights and pay of low-wage, vulnerable workers," said Susana Rincon, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s San Francisco District Office. "Retaliation for cooperating with our investigations will not be tolerated.”
According to the department's statement, Silvestri was also the owner of a restaurant in Yonkers, N.Y., that was investigated by the department in 1999. That investigation found that he owed approximately $8,000 to workers in back pay for minimum and overtime wage violations.
“This owner has underpaid workers for years, despite being well aware of the law’s requirements,” Rincon said.
Silvestri told the Marin Independent Journal that the allegations were "a bunch of fabricated garbage" that "came from nowhere."
The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit asks the court to award the employees both the overtime back wages they are due and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The suit also seeks to permanently prohibit the defendants from future violations of the law.