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News Release

US Labor Department obtains order to stop Arlington restaurant owners from intimidating workers who cooperate with federal investigators

Aroma Indian Cuisine attempts to hinder federal wage and hour investigation

ARLINGTON, Va. – A suburban Washington, D.C.-area restaurant and its owners have entered into an agreement ensuring that they would not intimidate or retaliate against employees who cooperate with a U.S. Department of Labor wage and hour investigation and subsequent ongoing litigation. The owners also agreed to stop soliciting “waivers” from employees to relinquish their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The department obtained a consent order in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia prohibiting Aroma Indian Cuisine in Arlington from terminating employment; retaliating or discriminating against employees they believe have spoken with or will speak to federal Wage and Hour Division investigators; and asking employees to sign “waivers” of their FLSA rights.

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 and participate in the litigation without fear of retaliation. The owners signed the statement and posted it at the restaurant.

“Our investigation concluded, and our suit alleges, that the owners failed to pay employees the wages they were owed. We also believe the owners attempted to use intimidation tactics to pressure employees to cease cooperating with our investigation,” said Mark Lara director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Baltimore District Office. “This case should send a strong message to employers: hindering an investigation by intimidating employees will not be tolerated, and will not prevent federal labor laws from being upheld.”

The division began an investigation of Aroma Indian Cuisine in August 2013 to confirm its compliance with FLSA provisions. After the investigation disclosed violations, and the department filed suit to enforce regulations, the restaurant’s employees reported to investigators that the business’ owner asked employees to sign waivers purportedly waiving their right to recover back wages under the FLSA and their right to participate in the investigation and ongoing litigation. Employees also reported feeling threatened for their potential involvement in the department’s case. 

Aroma Indian Cuisine is a full-service Indian food restaurant and catering service. The division’s area office in Arlington conducted the investigation. The department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Arlington is litigating the case.

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. These requirements may not be “waived” by employees. Employers are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records. Employers are prohibited from discharging or discriminating against an employee in any way because such employee has filed a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or cooperated in an investigation.

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 Arlington Area Office at (703) 235-1182. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.  

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Perez v. Aroma Indian Cuisine.
Civil Action Number:  1:15-cv-01259

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
May 16, 2016
Release Number
16-0957-PHI
Contact: Leni Fortson
Phone Number
Contact: Joanna Hawkins
Phone Number