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Akbar Restaurant to pay $310G to settle underpayment suit

Akbar Restaurant in Garden City on May 3,

Akbar Restaurant in Garden City on May 3, 2014. The alleged violations took place between July 31, 2012, and March 2016, court documents state. Photo Credit: Yana Paskova

Akbar Restaurant, a high-end Indian restaurant in Garden City, has agreed to pay $310,000 to settle U.S. Department of Labor charges that it willfully underpaid 24 workers and retaliated against an employee who refused to sign an affidavit with “false statements,” the department announced Wednesday. It was the restaurant’s second settlement.

Akbar, which bills itself as Long Island’s first Indian restaurant, is charged in the latest case with paying dishwashers, kitchen staff, servers and bussers a fixed amount each week, even when they worked 60 to 70 hours in the period, court documents show. They were not paid overtime.

The flat rates resulted in the workers being paid less than the $7.25 federal hourly minimum wage. The kitchen workers and dishwashers, for example, were paid a set salary of $400 to $600 a week, the court papers say.

The alleged violations took place between July 31, 2012, and March 2016, court documents state. In a settlement a defendant neither denies nor admits guilt.

Owner Meena Chopra, who is named in the settlement, said that employees only worked 70-hour weeks three to four times a year. But she conceded that she lacked the bookkeeping records to prove it.

“We are now fully compliant with our payroll,” Chopra said. “I am glad that it has worked out well between the department and myself.”

Under federal law, hourly workers must be paid for all the hours they work and must earn overtime pay at one and one-half times their regular hourly rate when they work more than 40 hours a week.

The restaurant failed to maintain accurate payroll records, kept “multiple” sets of books and submitted false records to Department of Labor investigators, the court documents say. And it withheld the final pay of a former dishwasher who refused to sign a “false” declaration saying he was owed no more money.

“The combination of these violations makes this among our most egregious cases in the restaurant industry,” said Irv Miljoner, who heads the department’s Long Island office, which conducted the investigation.

The restaurant has agreed to pay $285,800 in back wages and damages to employees and $24,200 in penalties. The lawsuit was filed on July 31, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Miljoner said. The judge signed the consent decree last week.

In 2012, Akbar agreed to pay $110,416 in back wages and damages to settle Labor Department charges that it underpaid workers.

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