LI restaurants to pay almost $1.7M in back wages, damages, say feds

A Google street view image of the Kumo

A Google street view image of the Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse in Stony Brook, one of seven restaurants ordered to pay penalties and back wages due to a Department of Labor investigation. (Credit: Google)

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Seven Long Island restaurants have agreed to pay a total of almost $1.7 million in back wages and damages owed to 363 workers, mostly waiters and kitchen help, the U.S. Labor Department announced Wednesday.

In addition, $114,737 is to be paid in penalties and interest to the Labor Department for wage and record-keeping violations, the department said, under consent judgments from federal district court in Brooklyn.

The restaurants, six in Suffolk County and one in Rockville Centre, were accused of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act at various times between 2011 and 2013 by paying workers below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour; paying employees cash off the books; failing to pay time and a half for overtime work beyond 40 hours a week; keeping some tips intended for employees; failing to pay wages to certain employees; and not keeping records of hours worked and wages paid to employees.

The restaurants in the consent judgments were Good Taste Buffet in Commack; Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse in Stony Brook; Crystal Garden in Ronkonkoma; Nishiki in Selden; Crystal Garden Buffet in Riverhead; Hotoke in Smithtown, and Kashi Sushi & Steakhouse in Rockville Centre.

At five of the restaurants, managers or owners were said to be unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon. A manager at a sixth, reached by telephone, hung up. An attorney representing Nishiki, Crystal Garden and Hotoke, Jian Hang of Flushing, declined to comment.

At Nishiki, general manager Mabel Ching called the judgments unfair, saying that many workers in that business insist that their incomes be underreported to reduce their income taxes. "I think it's not fair for the workers and for us because actually they do receive enough salary and because a lot of the time they just don't want to report it personally," she said.

Irv Miljoner, director of the Long Island office of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour division, said, "The violations found during these investigations are, unfortunately, all too common in this industry. We plan to continue our enforcement effort in the Asian restaurant sector and other types of restaurants where underpayment cheats both employers and workers who follow the law."

Investigations by the division in the past fiscal year resulted in $6.4 million in back wages for more than 1,300 workers on Long Island, reflecting 71 consent judgments, the Labor Department said.

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