US Department of Labor obtains consent order restraining Danbury bakery, owner from retaliating against employees who cooperate with wage investigation
HARTFORD, CT – A Danbury bakery and its owner may not threaten, terminate or cause harm to current or former workers who cooperate with a U.S. Department of Labor investigation of the bakery’s employment practices, a federal court in Hartford has ordered in a consent preliminary injunction obtained by the department.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigated Padaminas NY Bakery II LLC and owner Pedro Coelho for potential Fair Labor Standards Act violations. Shortly after the investigation began, the department alleged that Coelho met with his employees on two occasions. The department’s complaint states that during those meetings, Coelho told his employees he would fire them and report them to immigration authorities if they cooperated with the investigation. The complaint also alleges that defendants blacklisted a former employee they believed filed a complaint with the division.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in Hartford issued a consent order prohibiting the bakery and its owner from retaliating against current and former employees and obstructing the division’s investigation.
Due to the potential for ongoing retaliation by the defendants, the department sought and obtained the consent preliminary injunction. The injunction prohibits the defendants from taking any of the following actions in violation of the FLSA:
- Terminating or threatening to terminate any employee.
- Reporting or threatening to report any employee or former employee to immigration authorities.
- Threatening to have any employee or former employee deported.
- Using against any employee or former employee their immigration status, citizenship, work authorization status or lack of government documents (including a driver’s license).
- Disparaging or threatening to disparage any employee or former employee to other employers.
- Blacklisting any employee or former employee.
- Making any employees’ working conditions less favorable, including by reducing any employee’s hours of work or pay.
- Retaliating or discriminating against employees or former employees in any other way.
- Obstructing the division’s investigation of the defendants.
The consent injunction also requires the defendants to permit a division representative to notify all the defendants’ employees on paid working time of their FLSA rights, which includes their right to speak freely and honestly with the Wage and Hour Division without fear of retaliation, and provide a written notice of FLSA rights to all employees in a language they understand.
“The Fair Labor Standards Act not only guarantees that employees receive all the wages they are due for the hours they work, it also forbids employers from retaliating against, punishing or blacklisting employees because they exercise their rights under the law,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Donald Epifano in Hartford, Connecticut. “Knowing and understanding the law can prevent violations from occurring in the first place. We encourage employers and employees with questions about their respective responsibilities and rights to contact the Wage and Hour Division.”
“The defendants’ alleged behavior is unlawful and extreme. Seeking to intimidate employees will not halt a Wage and Hour Division investigation. The U.S. Department of Labor will, as in this case, respond with appropriate and expeditious legal action to protect employees’ rights and hold employers accountable for their retaliatory and obstructionist actions,” said regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston.
The division’s Hartford District Office is conducting the investigation. The department’s regional Office of the Solicitor is litigating the case.
Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
Walsh v. Padaminas NY Bakery II LLC and owner Pedro Coelho
Civil Action No. 3:21-cv-1051