Lynbrook pizzeria forced to pay employees $178K in damages after Department of Labor investigation


A Lynbrook pizzeria was ordered to pay more than $178,000 in back wages, damages and civil penalties for failing to pay employees overtime after a federal investigation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Regina’s Pizzeria, also identified as Lynbrook Pizza & Pasta Inc., and its owner Nunzio DiLorenzo were ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to pay $84,160 in fines, the same amount in damages to affected workers and more than $9,600 in civil penalties for what the labor department described as “the violation’s willful nature.”

Messages for DiLorenzo at the pizzeria were not returned at press time, and his attorney, Jasmine Patel, did not return calls or an email seeking comment.

In all, 17 employees were shortchanged wages. They were to be paid between $57 and $31,821, with most of them to receive hundreds or thousands of dollars each.

The court’s action came after a Wage and Hour Division investigation into the eatery, which concluded that DiLorenzo failed to pay certain employees overtime when they worked more than 40 hours per week, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The restaurant also violated the FLSA’s recordkeeping requirements by failing to keep accurate records of work hours and pay rates, according to the labor department.

“Over the past year, the services provided by essential food industry workers have helped us cope with the many challenges we’ve faced,” David An, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour District director, said in a statement on its website. “They deserve to be paid every cent of their lawfully earned wages. Too often, employers fail to pay proper overtime to workers and attempt to obscure their actions with incomplete and inadequate records. Other employers should view this investigation’s outcome as a reason to review their own pay practices and avoid the costly consequences of disregard for the law.”

According to the Department of Labor, the pizzeria was found guilty of:

— Paying non-exempt kitchen employees a fixed salary for all hours worked, with no additional overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek.

— Calculating the overtime rate for their tipped employees based solely on the direct cash wage and not the full minimum wage rate.

— Rounding weekly wages up or down to the nearest dollar.

— Creating an artificial hourly rate for workers to try to show FLSA compliance.

The DOL found that Regina’s failed to resolve violations subsequent to the investigation, leading to litigation by the department’s Office of the Solicitor.

The judgment requires the pizzeria to notify affected employees about the judgment and their FLSA rights in Spanish and English. It also prohibits the business from retaliating against employees and soliciting them to return or kick back their wages and damages.

Investigators found that from October 2016 to December 2018, kitchen, phone and counter staff regularly worked more than 60 hours per week, but were paid a fixed salary without overtime pay, depriving “employees of their lawfully earned wages.” Hour and pay records that were kept falsely showed that full-time employees all worked 11 hours a shift, every shift, during the week or weekend, resulting in the same paycheck amounts every week, according to court filings.

“These records also underestimate the number of hours worked,” the labor department said in its legal complaint, “failing to take into account work done before and after the restaurant was open, for example, and longer shifts on weekends.”