News Release

Court enters injunction after Evansville restaurant owner agrees to stop intimidating workers who cooperate with federal wage investigation

Order follows lawsuit filing seeking $450K in back wages, damages

EVANSVILLE, IN – An Evansville diner owner will post a statement for employees and allow a U.S. Department of Labor representative to read its content aloud to inform the employees of their rights to cooperate with federal wage investigators and that the owner is subject to a department lawsuit for retaliating against workers and failing to pay required wages. 

The actions are detailed in an agreed order entered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on May 13, 2024, in response to the department’s March 6, 2024, request for a restraining order and injunction prompted by an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division of Friendship Diner LLC.

The division alleges Bardhyl Shabani violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s anti-retaliation provisions when harassing and threatening employees in an attempt to coerce them into giving false statements to investigators about the mandatory nature of Friendship Diner’s tip pool. The department also asked the court to award punitive damages to employees Shabani coerced. 

“The Department of Labor will not tolerate an employer’s attempt to obstruct a federal investigation by retaliating or threatening to retaliate against employees,” said Regional Solicitor Christine Heri in Chicago. We will use every available legal resource to protect workers, end such illegal actions and hold employers like Bardhyl Shabani accountable, including seeking punitive damages for those harassed.”

Under terms of the agreed order, Shabani is forbidden from doing the following:

  • Discussing the division’s ongoing investigation with employees without the court’s prior approval.
  • Discriminating against employees who cooperate with investigators by withholding hours or intentionally placing servers in positions to earn fewer tips.
  • Retaliating against workers in any manner. 

On Feb. 28, 2024, the department filed a complaint in federal court seeking back wages and liquidated damages for 44 people employed by Friendship Diner LLC. The complaint is based on the division’s finding that Friendship Diner and Shabani owe $450,140, representing $225,070 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, to the affected employees.

The investigation included an examination of pay records from Feb. 22, 2021, through Feb. 19, 2023, and alleged multiple violations by the Evansville restaurant, including the following:

  • Operating an illegal tip-sharing pool by requiring servers to return $10 in tips for each weekday shift and $15 in tips for each weekend shift to management. Management kept the servers’ tips or used them to pay bussers’ hourly wages. This practice invalidated the employer’s ability to take a tip credit for servers.
  • Failing to pay all workers the federally required minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. 
  • Not paying overtime at time and one-half the regular rate of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.
  • Paying kitchen staff half of their wages by payroll check and half in cash without combining hours and pay to properly calculate hours over 40 in a workweek for overtime purposes. 
  • Failing to keep accurate payroll records. 

The department continues to litigate the other minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping violations alleged in the complaint. The infractions identified by division investigators in this case are similar to violations cited at another restaurant operated by Shabani in Wisconsin in 2013.

“Federal wage laws include detailed criteria for a tip pool’s use and define who can participate in such pools legally,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Aaron Loomis in Indianapolis. “The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to protect workers and ensure they receive their due wages by enforcing strong workplace protections.” 

Attorney Haley R. Jenkins in the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Chicago is litigating the case.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Divisionincluding a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.

For more information about the FLSA and other laws that prohibit retaliation, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers and employers can call the division confidentially with questions, and the division can speak with callers in more than 200 languages, regardless of where a caller is from. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App, which is available in English and Spanish for Android and Apple devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

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U.S. Department of Labor v. Friendship Diner LLC, Bardhyl Shabani

Case No: 3:24-cv-00049-RLY-CSW


Office of the Solicitor
May 13, 2024
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Media Contact: Scott Allen
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Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
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