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2 LI restaurants to settle labor suit

Asian Moon on Franklin Avenue in Garden City.

Asian Moon on Franklin Avenue in Garden City. (Dec. 17, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

An upscale restaurant chain with two locations on Long Island and one in Westchester County has agreed to pay just over $1 million to settle federal charges that it failed to pay 255 workers minimum wage and overtime, and falsified records to hide the alleged violations, the U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday.

The restaurants are Asian Moon in Garden City and Massapequa Park, and Golden Rod in New Rochelle. Most of the alleged violations occurred on Long Island, the department said. The chain's president, Vickie Sue Li, was also a party to the settlement.

Neither Li nor the attorney who represented the restaurant chain, Alan Schiller of the Schiller Law Group in Manhattan, returned telephone calls seeking comment. In a settlement a defendant neither admits nor denies guilt.

Under the agreement, which a judge approved Friday, the Long Island restaurants and Li will pay $772,480 in back wages and damages to 193 employees, plus about $77,000 in civil penalties to the Department of Labor. Li and the New Rochelle restaurant have agreed to pay $313,273 to 62 workers and about $21,000 in civil penalties. The judgments were entered in federal courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.

The alleged infractions occurred from January 2009 to January 2012, the labor department said. The department filed a lawsuit last month alleging that food preparers and dishwashers who averaged 55 hours a week weren't paid overtime; and that lack of overtime compensation cut their pay rate below the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage. The agency alleged similar charges for the waitstaff, which worked an average 45 hours. Federal labor law requires employers to pay employees at least $7.25 an hour and at least 1 1/2 times their regular hourly rate when they work more than 40 hours a week.

The department also said the restaurants falsified records and paid some workers off the books.

Irv Miljoner, who heads the department's Long Island office, which investigated the local restaurants, said that off-the-books payments usually figure in any case involving wage underpayments.

"This is the kind of case that we are committed to fully investigating and resolving in order to have an impact on the restaurant industry, because the violations are so prevalent and so serious," Miljoner said.

Anyone who believes they are covered by the settlement should call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890.

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