US Department of Labor obtains court order prohibiting Connecticut restaurants, owners from employee retaliation
HARTFORD, CT – Two Fairfield County restaurants and their owners were required to pay $137,465 in back wages and liquidated damages to workers after U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigations found that the employers violated the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
That should have ended the matter. Instead, Christopher Delmonico, owner of the former Chubby’s in Bridgeport and the co-owner of The Ole Dog Tavern (formerly Lazy Dog Tavern) in Stratford and Niall O’Neill, co-owner of The Ole Dog Tavern, allegedly used threats of retaliation to coerce the employees into kicking back thousands of dollars of back wages or liquidated damages owed to the workers.
The defendants’ unlawful activities included:
- Driving two employees to a bank to cash their checks for back wages or liquidated damages and demanding payment in the parking lot.
- Threatening one employee with blacklisting.
- Firing another employee and disparaging him to future employers.
- Threatening to report employees to immigration and law enforcement agencies if they failed to give up the monies to which they were entitled.
Citing “... a significant risk that Defendants will follow through on their threats to damage the lives and livelihoods of those employees,” the department has obtained a consent preliminary injunction preventing Delmonico, O’Neill and their businesses Lazy Dog Management LLC and ChubbyLove LLC from retaliating or discriminating against their employees.
Among other things, the order prohibits the defendants from reporting or threatening to report any employee to immigration or law enforcement authorities and disparaging or threatening to disparage any employee to other employers, for purposes of inhibiting any employee’s rights under the FLSA. Under the order, the department will notify the employees to whom the defendants agreed to pay back wages and liquidated damages that they have the right to receive and keep that money free from any retaliation by the defendants.
The department also filed suit to recover the money stolen from the workers. The department’s suit asks the court to:
- Prevent the defendants from seeking to have any employee kick back or return any money that is due to them.
- Award employees damages in the amounts of the back wages and/or liquidated damages the defendants forced them to return, or prevent the defendants from withholding the back wages from the employees.
- Award back pay to compensate an employee whom Delmonico terminated unlawfully.
- Award punitive damages for the defendants’ retaliation against certain employees.
- Prevent the defendants from violating the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements in the future.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate employers threatening employees unlawfully with immigration consequences, law enforcement action, termination or blacklisting for asserting their workplace rights or keeping money that they are due. Employers that do so should be prepared to see us in court,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston. “Effective enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act can occur only if employees feel free to assert their rights without fear of retaliation. The department will take swift legal action to defend workers who assert their rights from threats, intimidation, harassment and any other adverse action.”
“The defendants continually violated their employees’ rights, first denying them proper pay and then using intimidation to claw back the monies they were legally required to pay the employees to resolve the violations we found. Their actions are illegal and unacceptable. They not only cheat workers, they also place law-abiding employers at a competitive disadvantage,” said Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Sarah Thomas in Hartford.
The division’s Hartford District Office conducted the investigations. The Boston regional Office of the Solicitor is litigating the case.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by WHD, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
Secretary of Labor v. Lazy Dog Management, LLC d/b/a The Ole Dog Tavern, ChubbyLove, LLC d/b/a Chubby’s, Christopher Delmonico and Niall O’Neill.
Civil Action No. 3:21-cv-204