Long Island Restaurant Prohibited from Obstructing Federal Probe

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NEW YORK – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a federal court order preventing a Long Island restaurant and its chef/owner from violating federal law by employing young workers at night later than law permits and from obstructing an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

The department filed suit against Caribbean Island Restaurant and Bar LLC and Bibi Zalena Bethune in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on July 11 after division investigators visited the Freeport, New York, restaurant at approximately 10:15 p.m. on a Sunday evening. The complaint includes investigators’ observations of four apparent minors, including a 14-year-old who was working later than the law allows, cleaning tables, serving hookahs and removing empty beer bottles from tables.

The Fair Labor Standards Act’s child labor provisions limit employment of 14- and 15-year old workers to between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day, and no later than 7 p.m. the rest of the year. 

The complaint also alleges that Bethune obstructed the division’s investigation by refusing to provide its investigators with information, instructing minor employees not to speak with investigators and physically preventing an adult employee from speaking with them. 

“To continue its investigation and determine if this employer is following the law, the Wage and Hour Division must be able to interview employees and employers and gather information freely. Obstructing an investigation is illegal, and the U.S. Department of Labor will pursue swift and effective legal remedies when the situation warrants,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.

“Child labor laws help ensure that the hours worked by young workers do not impede their educational and developmental opportunities, and the jobs they perform do not jeopardize their health and well-being,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director David An in Westbury, New York. “We encourage employers and employees, including young workers and their families, to contact us about employer obligations and workers’ rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

On July 13, the court granted a temporary restraining order that enjoins Caribbean Island Restaurant and Bar LLC and Bibi Zalena Bethune from:

  • Violating the FLSA’s child labor restrictions.
  • Permitting employees under 16 years of age to work past 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day and after 7 p.m. during non-summer months.
  • Refusing to provide information to the U.S. Department of Labor and its investigators.
  • Instructing employees to not speak with investigators or otherwise preventing employees from cooperating with investigators.

The order also requires the restaurant and Bethune to permit investigators to read aloud in English, Spanish and any other language understood by most of their employees – and in the presence of the owner – a statement that informs them of the restraining order and their right to speak freely with U.S. Department of Labor staff, post the statement in a conspicuous location in the restaurant and allow the department to provide copies to each employee.

The division’s Long Island district office is conducting the investigation. Trial Attorney Nicole Lancia of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York is litigating the case for the department. View the opinion and order and the complaint.

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