The U.S. Labor Department has sued a popular Garden City Park restaurant, charging that it has "willfully and repeatedly" failed to pay 26 workers minimum wage and overtime since January 2008, the department announced Thursday.

The complaint, which was filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, doesn't indicate what the department is seeking in back wages and damages from Uncle Bacala's because a judge will set the amount, a spokesman said. The number of employees could grow, he said.

The restaurant didn't return repeated telephone calls seeking comment. The current and former employees include busboys, food runners and kitchen workers, the department said.

The Long Island office conducted the investigation that prompted the lawsuit. The suit "should remind all employers of their legal responsibility to properly pay employees for every hour worked," said Irv Miljoner, who heads the local office.

Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Hourly employees must be paid at least one-and-a-half times their regular hourly wage after they work more than 40 hours in a week.

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