NEW YORK – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a federal court order to prevent two Astoria, New York, discount stores and their owners and manager from threatening workers and obstructing an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

The action follows an investigation of ABC 31st Street Inc. and Astoria 99C Inc., owners Ahmad Perwaiz and Hassan Perwaiz, and manager Mohammed Perwaiz that addressed possible violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Investigators found credible evidence that the employers threatened employees to discourage cooperation with the investigation, instructed them to lie to investigators and to report back anything they learned from investigators. The employers also fabricated time records and required workers to sign false statements.

On July 6, 2022, the department filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and on July 7, the court granted a temporary restraining order that enjoins ABC 31st Street Inc., Astoria 99C Inc., and Ahmad, Hassan, and Mohammed Perwaiz from:

Retaliating or discriminating against any current or former employees for cooperating with the investigation or because they believe employees are cooperating with the investigation.
Requiring or requesting that employees sign time and pay records containing false, misleading or inaccurate information or provide false documents to investigators.
Creating or submitting false documents to the Department of Labor.
Communicating with employees about the investigation without first informing them of the lawsuit and their FLSA anti-retaliation rights, and that such communications are voluntary.

The order also requires the employers to:

Permit division representatives to read aloud, in English, Spanish and any other language understood by the majority of employees, during their paid working hours and in the presence of the defendants, a statement describing employees’ FLSA rights and post a written statement of the same.
Provide a written notice to the Wage and Hour Division at least seven days prior to termination of an employee for any reason.

View the memorandum and order and the complaint.

“The employers’ illegal retaliation and obstruction are an egregious – if ultimately unsuccessful – attempt to dissuade vulnerable, low-wage workers  from cooperating with a lawful investigation and to deprive them of their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jorge Alvarez in New York. “The U.S. Department of Labor is undeterred in its commitment to protect workers from such prohibited retaliatory conduct.”

“The Fair Labor Standards Act guarantees employees the right to participate in, and to cooperate with Wage and Hour Division investigations without fear of employer retaliation and intimidation. The U.S. Department of Labor will take effective and expeditious legal action on behalf of workers when their employers violate their rights or attempt to obstruct an investigation,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.

The division’s New York City district office is conducting the investigation. Trial Attorney Peter F. Kellett of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York is litigating the case for the department.

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 required rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including 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, now available for android devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate

Walsh v. ABC 31st Street Inc, doing business as ABC Deals; Astoria 99C Inc., doing business as Pick 99c; Ahmad Perwaiz, Hassan Perwaiz and Mohammed Perwaiz.

Civil Action No. 1:22-cv-3920

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