What Happens When a New York Employer Simply Ignores Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws?

New York employers are often defiant when it comes to addressing overtime and wage hour violations. Oftentimes they will throw every legal–and not-so-legal–roadblock in the path of an employee who is simply trying to collect the wages he or she is owed. This is why it is critical for employees to be persistent in the face of abusive employers and never hesitate to take legal action when appropriate.

Queens Restaurant Owners Sanctioned for Failing to Comply with Discovery Requirements

Consider this recent case from the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees federal employment law litigation for New York. The owners of a Chinese restaurant in Queens asked the appellate court to reverse a trial judge's ruling that they violated federal and state laws by failing to pay the plaintiff–a former server representing a class action of employees–the mandated minimum wage and overtime rates. In an unpublished opinion, the Second Circuit held the owners' complaints lacked merit.

Indeed, the restaurant owners sealed their own fate before the district court when they failed to comply with multiple requests for discovery. The magistrate judge assigned by the trial court said in a 2013 order that the defendants “have clearly failed to obey several of the Court's discovery Orders.” In several cases, the defendants failed to respond to discovery requests by the court's mandatory deadlines, and the responses provided were incomplete. For example, the magistrate said in response to a request for all employees potentially covered by the lawsuit, the defendants “failed to provide the names of Latino employees and the addresses of the putative class plaintiffs,” and only provided the names of other employees in Chinese rather than English.

Not only did the trial court order the defendants to pay the plaintiff's legal fees and court costs associated with the discovery debacle, it further issued an “adverse instruction.” Basically, had the case gone to a jury trial, the judge would have told the jurors that it could hold the defendants' refusal to comply with the discovery requests against them. This turned out to be a moot point, however, since the trial court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs.

The Second Circuit upheld both the discovery sanctions and the summary judgment. With respect to the former, the Court observed “the adverse inference sanction was not an abuse of discretion,” and given the defendants' ongoing “noncompliance with their discovery obligations,” the magistrate essentially went easy on them. As for summary judgment, the Second Circuit said there was “no genuine dispute as to any material fact regarding [the plaintiff's] pay, hours, or shift length; thus, there is no basis in the record for a reasonable juror to reach a contrary result.” To the contrary, the defendants never disputed the plaintiff's factual statements regarding hours worked or pay.

Stand Up Against Wage Hour and Overtime Violations in NYC

It is not surprising that an employer who ignores wage hour and overtime laws would also prove unable to comply with the basic requirements of courtroom litigation. Cases like this illustrate the importance of working with an experienced New York employment attorney who will hold such disreputable employers to account. If you are the victim of a minimum wage or overtime violation, contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, today.