Feds Seek Restraining Order Against Illinois Restaurant

Its owners allegedly intimidated workers during an investigation over back wages.

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CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint and has asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order against a Huntley restaurant and its owners for retaliating and intimidating workers illegally during an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

Division investigators found that the employer – Papa G’s restaurant and owners Steve and Rick Tsakalios – told workers they did not have to speak with the investigators, questioned those who had about their discussions with investigators and created a chilling effect on worker cooperation.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the action asks the court to prevent the restaurant and the owners from interfering with a federal investigation into the employers’ pay practices. The department is also seeking to have Papa G’s pay $59,904 in back wages, and an equal amount of liquidated damages to employees.

“Threatening or intimidating employees to prevent their cooperation with U.S. Department of Labor investigators is illegal,” stated Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago. “Doing so discourages workers from asserting their rights and interferes with effective enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

“Our request for a temporary restraining order in this matter shows the department will do everything in its power to protect workers’ rights,” Heri added.

In addition to the intimidation and interference, investigators allege Papa G’s willfully violated the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions by producing falsified records showing employees rarely worked more than 40 hours per week. Investigators later obtained a second set of records showing employees worked far more than 40 hours per week and that the employer paid the workers in cash at a straight-time rate for their overtime hours. A warrant served on the employer’s accountant – Alphameric Accounting of Lincolnwood – recovered additional records that confirmed this practice.

“As more workers choose to leave the food service industry, employers whose pay practices comply with the law have the advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining workers. Those employers who shortchange workers will likely find themselves without the people they need to operate their businesses,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Thomas Gauza in Chicago.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 958,000 food and accommodation services workers left their positions in December 2021. BLS also projects about 41,400 openings for food service managers each year, on average, from 2020 to 2030.

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