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US Labor Department obtains temporary restraining order against BabyVision Inc. to stop intimidation of workers during investigation
NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York enjoining a Poughkeepsie business and its owners from intimidating and retaliating against any of their employees who are cooperating in a federal investigation.
The department's Wage and Hour Division began an investigation of BabyVision Inc. in July 2014 to determine if the business complied with the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Soon after the investigation began, BabyVision Inc. employees reported to investigators that company vice president of finance and part owner Malti Shah instructed some employees to hide from the division's investigators and instructed others to provide false information about their work hours and the company's timekeeping procedures. Shah also reportedly threatened the employees with termination of employment if they cooperated with the division's investigation.
"Threatening workers with retaliation not only obstructs a lawful investigation, it has a chilling effect on workers, effectively robbing them of the ability to speak for themselves and testify truthfully about their working conditions," said Sonia C. Rybak, the Wage and Hour Division's assistant district director. "Such treatment of workers is illegal, plain and simple, and must halt."
"Seeking a temporary restraining order is absolutely necessary in this case," said Jeffrey S. Rogoff, the department's acting regional solicitor of labor in New York. "The department will not hesitate to pursue such legal action when violations warrant it."
The temporary restraining order prohibits BabyVision Inc., Shreenivas Shah and Malti Shah from terminating employment; retaliating or discriminating against employees they believe have spoken with or will speak to Wage and Hour Division investigators; instructing employees to not speak with or to provide false information to investigators; and obstructing the investigation.
The order also requires the defendants to allow a department representative to provide employees with an oral and written statement about their right to speak with investigators without fear of retaliation and provide the department with a written notice at least seven days in advance of the termination of any worker's employment.
BabyVision Inc. designs baby apparel and distributes products to retail stores, including Target, and to individual customers who purchase through Internet portals, such as Amazon. It operates from a warehouse and offices at 30 Firemens Way in Poughkeepsie.
The investigation is being conducted by the Wage and Hour Division's area office in White Plains, while the litigation is being conducted by the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in New York City.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.
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) or its White Plains Area Office at 914-682-6348. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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Perez v. BabyVision Inc., Shreenivas Shah and Malti Shah Civil Action Number: 14-cv-7821 (KMK)
- Read this news release in Spanish.