A trendy New York City night club has been fined $200,000 for multiple labor law violations involving around 25 employees. According to the New York Times, the West Village restaurant and lounge Veranda has agreed to pay the fines after being found paying employees below minimum wage, not compensating them for overtime, and illegally distributing tips to managers. In addition, the restaurant was also fined heavily for firing two employees who questioned their labor practices. Veranda is located at 130 7th Avenue in Greenwich Village.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, and New York State law sets it at the same rate. In addition, the FLSA requires employers to compensate employees one-and-one-half times the regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Although in certain situations tipped employees may receive a lower hourly rate, managers and others who do not serve the public are not permitted to take any portion of received tips. The newly passed Wage Theft Prevention Act allows for damages up to $10,000 for employees wrongly retaliated against for speaking out against labor violations. Veranda will be monitored by the New York Attorney General’s office for the next two years.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that "By scaring employees into silence, employer retaliation undermines basic labor law protections. Now Veranda will be held accountable for violating the laws that protect our state's most vulnerable workers. My office will aggressively pursue employers who fire workers for standing up for their rights -- especially during tough economic times, when so many workers are already afraid of losing their jobs."
If an employee files a lawsuit, makes a complaint to a governmental agency, or reports wrongdoing to his or her employer under the Failed Labor Standards Act, the law protects that employee from retaliation. The restaurant industry is one of the largest perpetrators of FLSA violations. Because restaurant workers are often low-wage earners, immigrants, and/or are very vulnerable, the industry frequently improperly classifies workers as “exempt” to prevent them from receiving overtime, makes illegal subtractions from their earned wages, refuses to pay overtime, incorrectly calculates time worked, and even pays some employees off the books. These practices strip employees of both justly earned wages as well as their dignities as workers. If you believe that you may be being unfairly treated by your employer, contact an experienced overtime attorney to see if you might be eligible to receive back wages for unpaid overtime or underpayment.