Long Island Diner Owner, Manager Plead Guilty to Criminal Wage Theft Charges

You have the right to receive a day's pay for a day's work under New York law. No employer has the right to withhold wages, even if it claims it lacks the funds to meet payroll. Failure to pay employees on time is a wage and hour violation and in some cases, it can lead to criminal charges against the employer if there is evidence of fraud.

Diner Failed to Pay More Than a Dozen Employees, Forced Them to Live on “Cash Tips” Alone

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced the resolution of criminal charges against the owner and manager of a Suffolk County diner that illegally failed to pay employee wages. Schneiderman said the two individual defendants entered into a plea agreement that may lead to jail time. More importantly, the employers will pay over $130,000 in restitution to the affected workers.

Schneiderman initially filed criminal charges last year after two of the diner's employees told police officers for the Town of Southampton that they were “not receiving proper compensation,” according to a report in Southampton Patch. The police met with more than a dozen additional employees, who confirmed that not only were they not being paid, they alleged the owner and manager “threatened and intimidated” them for complaining.

A subsequent investigation by the Southampton police and the Attorney General's office revealed that between August and December 2016, employees “were not paid their hourly wages, which often included overtime hours, on a weekly basis or at all.” Employees were effectively forced to live exclusively on cash tips alone, as the owner “withheld most of their credit card tips from them or paid them only a partial amount several weeks later.” Although the owner and manager “made repeated promises to the workers that payment was imminent,” these turned out to be false statements.

Before Suffolk County Supreme Court, the diner's owner pleaded guilty to participating in a criminal “scheme to defraud,” which is a Class E felony. Both the owner and the diner's manager also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “failure to pay wages.” The judge presiding over the plea agreement said he planned to formally sentence the owner to six months in jail, while granting the manager a conditional discharge, which means he will not be required to serve a jail term or adhere to formal probation terms.

As for restitution, both the individual defendants and the corporate entity that owns the diner, which also pleaded guilty to the Class E felony, agreed to pay approximately $88,000 to 15 employees for unpaid wages, and an additional $43,000 to eight workers who were not reimbursed for work-related expenses.

Speak With a New York employment attorney Today

Wage theft is never okay. It violates the rights of workers and, as the case above illustrates, can lead to serious criminal charges. If you have been the victim of a wage hour or overtime law violation and need advice on how to proceed from an experienced New York employment attorney, contact the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., at 646.760.6493 today.


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