Court enters consent order requiring Fairfield County restaurants, owners to pay $150K to employees coerced into kicking back thousands in wages, damages
HARTFORD, CT – A federal court entered a consent order that requires two Fairfield County restaurants and their owners – who used threats of retaliation to coerce nine workers to kick back thousands of dollars of back wages and liquidated damages recovered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division – to pay $150,000 to those employees.
Following the division’s investigations, 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 – agreed to pay $137,465 in back wages and liquidated damages to certain workers to remedy the restaurants’ violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements.
The department alleges that the restaurant owners subsequently threatened workers to force them to kick back approximately $50,000 that the employees were owed. The employers allegedly fired one employee for requesting the full amount of back wages and liquidated damages that the division had determined the worker was owed, and threatened employees with blacklisting, termination, and law enforcement and immigration consequences. The employers also allegedly made disparaging comments about an employee to potential future employers and drove two workers to a bank to cash their checks and then demanded payment outside the bank.
Upon learning of the defendants’ actions, the department sued the defendants in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in March 2021 and obtained a consent preliminary injunction preventing them from retaliating or discriminating against their employees.
The current consent judgment and order requires the defendants to pay the workers $50,000 in kickbacks they accepted from the workers as well as $90,000 in punitive damages. The employers must also pay $10,000 in back pay to one employee who suffered a retaliatory firing. The order also permanently enjoins the defendants from future violations of the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision.
“The defendants engaged in a chain of illegal actions, first underpaying employees and then terminating an employee and threatening employees with immigration consequences, law enforcement action or blacklisting because they asserted their workplace rights and wished to keep the money due them. Those actions were egregious and indefensible. The U.S. Department of Labor stands ready to take to court those employers who exploit and intimidate their workers,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston.
“These employers violated their agreements to compensate their employees properly, illegally pressuring them to kick back monies that belonged to the workers in the first place. The Wage and Hour Division does not tolerate retaliation of any kind. Workers who believe their employers are retaliating against them because they exercise their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act should contact us,” said Wage and Hour District Director Donald Epifano in Hartford, Connecticut.
The division’s Hartford District Office conducted the investigation. The Boston Regional Solicitor’s Office litigated the case for the department.
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.
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