BUFFALO, NY – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recovered $106,623 in back wages and liquidated damages for 37 cashiers and cooks employed at three Pita Gourmet locations in Erie and Niagara counties after its investigation found the operator paid some employees cash off the books, paid straight time for overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek and failed to combine hours worked by employees at multiple locations.
The division found Mahfouz Inc., the restaurants’ operator, also kept no daily or weekly records of hours worked by employees and falsified work hours for overtime. The violations affected employees at company restaurants in East Amherst, Niagara Falls and Williamsville.
In addition to the back wages and damages recovered, the department assessed $8,988 in civil money penalties to resolve violations of the overtime and recordkeeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Food service employees are essential workers and entitled to the essential protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act. As food service industry employers struggle to find the people to fill the jobs needed to stay competitive, they should consider that retaining and recruiting workers is more difficult when employers disrespect workers’ rights and deny them their full wages,” said Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Patrick DeForest in Buffalo, New York. “We encourage employers and workers with questions about their rights and responsibilities to contact us.”
In fiscal year 2021, more than 4,200 Wage and Hour Division investigations recovered more than $34.7 million for more than 29,000 workers in the food service industry.
For information about laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, regardless of immigration status, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
The Wage and Hour Division has a number of resources online for workers and employers, including a restaurant compliance toolkit. 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.