BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment and order prohibiting a Somerville, Massachusetts, restaurant and its owner from retaliating against employees who cooperate in the department’s efforts to enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act. Fakhouri Inc. – operating as Sound Bites Café – and Yasser Mirza must also pay $15,000 in punitive damages to the affected current and former employees in connection with the department’s retaliation claim.

The department obtained the consent judgment as part of a May 2022 lawsuit alleging the restaurant and Mirza took serious and ongoing adverse actions against employees who engaged in activities protected under the FLSA. Such alleged actions include threatening an employee who sought unpaid overtime wages and telling other employees to provide false information to investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division. Also in May 2022, the department obtained a consent preliminary injunction to halt the alleged retaliation.

The consent judgment, obtained in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, permanently restrains the defendants from the following:

Instructing current or former employees not to speak with – or to provide false information to – investigators or influencing employees’ participation in any departmental investigation or legal proceeding.
Taking adverse action against any employee or former employee or telling them they will suffer adverse action because they engaged or will engage in FLSA-protected activity, including providing information to the department in any FLSA investigation or legal proceeding.
Demanding, accepting or keeping any amount paid or payable to any current or former employee as a result of the consent judgment or any investigation or legal proceeding brought by the department.
“To determine whether or not an employer is complying with the law, the Wage and Hour Division must be able to interview employees and employers to establish the facts. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees have a right to cooperate and participate in an investigation without fear that their employer will threaten or retaliate against them,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carlos Matos in Boston.

“When employers attempt to impede an investigation by threatening workers or attempting to coerce them into silence or making false statements, the U.S. Department of Labor will aggressively seek legal remedies on behalf of those employees,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston. “As we did in this case, the department will seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to immediately halt retaliation, and then litigate to convert the preliminary injunction into a permanent one while also obtaining appropriate damages.”

Read the consent judgment and order.

The division’s Boston District Office conducted the investigation. The Regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston litigated the case.

The FLSA requires that most employees in the U.S. be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at not less than time and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division and workers’ rights, including a compliance assistance toolkit for restaurants and a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.

Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions regardless of their immigration status. The department can speak with callers confidentially in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for android devices, available in English and Spanish, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

Walsh v. Fakhouri Inc., doing business as Sound Bites Café and Yasser Mirza.

Civil Action No. 1:22-cv-10694-PBS

 

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