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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [01/12/2012]
Contact Name: Jose A. Carnevali or Deanne Amaden
Phone Number: (415) 625-2631 or x2630
Release Number: 12-0047-SAN

US Labor Department sues Seafood Peddler restaurant in San Rafael, Calif., to recover more than $164,000 in overtime back wages, damages for employees

Management allegedly fired workers for cooperating with federal investigators

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Seafood Peddler restaurant in San Rafael, its owner and two managers for alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit follows an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division that found the defendants repeatedly failed to pay proper overtime wages and maintain required records, and retaliated against employees who cooperated with the investigation.

The department filed the lawsuit after owner Alphonse Silvestri refused to pay workers back wages following an investigation that examined pay practices over a three-year period ending in August 2011. Investigators determined that the employer owes at least $137,938 in overtime back wages to 11 employees as well as $26,434 to eight employees who were fired for cooperating with the investigation. Additionally, the department has assessed $15,400 in civil money penalties against the defendants for willfully violating the FLSA's overtime and nonretaliation provisions

Silvestri was also the owner of a restaurant in Yonkers, N.Y., that was investigated by the department in 1999. That investigation found $7,858 was owed 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," said Susana Rincon, director of the Wage and Hour Division's San Francisco District Office. "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. The Labor Department will use all available enforcement tools, including litigation, against companies and their officers to recover workers' wages and ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers. Retaliation for cooperating with our investigations will not be tolerated."

The department's regional solicitor's office in San Francisco filed the suit 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. If damages are not awarded, the suit asks the court to order the payment of prejudgment interest instead. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees. The suit also seeks to permanently prohibit the defendants from future violations of the law.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular hourly rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law 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 department's Fact Sheet No. 77A, Prohibiting Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, is available on the Wage and Hour Division's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs77a.htm.

The Labor Department is encouraging current and former employees of the restaurant to contact the division's San Francisco office at 415-625-7720. For more information about the FLSA, call the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.