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Owner underpaid New Rochelle restaurant workers, feds rule

The owner of several Asian restaurants in New York State -- including one in New Rochelle -- must fork over $1 million to shortchanged employees for "egregious labor violations," the U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday.

Vickie Sue Li of Queens owns three restaurants, Golden Rod in New Rochelle and two others both named Asian Moon in Garden City and Massapequa, respectively.

Federal prosecutors said Li paid her wait and kitchen staff less than the $7.25 federal minimum wage, worked them more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay and "maintained false and incomplete records of employees' pay rates and hours worked."

Prosecutors obtained a consent judgment in civil court, based on a lawsuit in October. The lawsuit's allegations were based on an investigation by the Department of Labor, prompted by complaints about Li's treatment of her employees.

Employees at Li's restaurants in New Rochelle, Massapequa and Garden City said she was not working Wednesday. A woman who answered Li's home phone said she did not speak English.

Attempts to reach Li's attorney on Wednesday weren't successful.

On the web, Li's restaurants list familiar Chinese and Asian menu items, including dim sum, sesame chicken and sushi. Li is listed as president and chairman of the board of her restaurants in corporate listings.

As part of the judgment, the Labor Department fined Li $98,231 in civil penalties, separate from the judgment. Li was ordered to pay $1,085,752 in back wages and interest to 255 employees who have worked for her restaurants, the Labor Department said.

"These workers suffered egregious labor violations," Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. "The Department of Labor is committed to using all tools available to recover workers' wages and ensure accountability under the law. By conducting investigations, we not only seek to assist vulnerable workers in sectors such as the restaurant industry, but also to level the playing field for all employers who obey the law."

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