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News Release

Pizza Restaurants and Owner to Pay Employees $53,000 for Wage Violations, and $14,000 to Former Employee Who Refused to Make False Statements

HARTFORD, CT – A Manchester-based chain of pizza restaurants and its owner will pay $26,575 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to employees to rectify violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) found by the U.S. Department of Labor. The restaurant chain and owner will also pay $14,000 in damages to a former employee who refused to provide false information to investigators.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut entered a consent judgment ordering Chemro, LLC – doing business as People’s Choice – and its owner, Robert Y. Mercier II, to comply with the FLSA and to refrain from discharging or discriminating against employees who initiate or cooperate with an FLSA investigation. They will also pay $1,168 in civil money penalties to the Department.

An investigation by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division found that the defendants allegedly violated the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping requirements between February 2013 and November 2015. Specifically, they did not pay one-and-one-half their regular rates of pay to three employees who worked overtime hours of up to 75 hours per week and took payroll deductions for cash register shortages that resulted in one employee receiving less than the minimum wage. The unpaid overtime for this period includes wages and damages that the defendants concealed from the Division during a prior investigation in 2015. The previously hidden unpaid overtime dates back to February 2013.

The defendants also maintained and supplied false time and payroll records and statements to investigators during the current investigation and a prior investigation in 2015. The records included receipts that falsely stated that the employees received back wages. Investigators also found that between about December 2015 and April 2016, Mercier continually pressured one employee to make false statements to investigators, leading the employee to believe he had no choice but to resign. In its complaint, the Department charged that this behavior by the employer resulted in the worker’s constructive discharge, in violation of the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision, the first such claim made by the Department in New England.

“This resolution secures for these hard-working employees the proper compensation they should have received in the first place,” said Wage and Hour’s Hartford District Director David Gerrain. “Employers who knowingly violate or attempt to evade the law gain an unfair competitive advantage over responsible employers who honor their obligations.”

“Intimidating employees – or in any way suggesting they should make false statements or not cooperate with legitimate investigations – is illegal and has consequences,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Michael Felsen. 

The FLSA requires that most employees receive one-and-one-half times their regular rates of pay when they work more than 40 hours in a work week and that employers maintain adequate and accurate records of employees’ wages and work hours.

The Division’s Hartford District Office investigated, while Senior Trial Attorney Scott M. Miller in Boston’s solicitor’s office litigated the case.

The Division is committed to providing employers with the tools they need to assist them – in a variety of languages – in fulfilling their obligation to understand and comply with the variety of laws the Division enforces. It offers useful resources ranging from an interactive E-laws advisor to a complete library of free, downloadable workplace posters. In addition, the Division’s Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialists conduct ongoing outreach activities to educate stakeholders, including employers, employees, business and labor groups, and professional associations, among others, with accessible, easy-to-understand information about their rights and responsibilities.

For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd

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Acosta v. Chemro LLC d/b/a People’s Choice, Robert Y. Mercier II.
Civil Action Number:  3:17-cv-01719-AWT.

Agency
Office of the Solicitor
Date
November 22, 2017
Release Number
17-1436-BOS
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
Contact: James C. Lally
Phone Number