Labor Seal NYS Department of Labor                          

Contact Leo Rosales Cell: 518-281-6167 Office: 518-457-5519 Email: leo.rosales@labor.ny.gov www.labor.ny.gov
Labor Department Announces Findings of Targeted Wage and Hour Investigation in Upscale Park Slope Neighborhood in Brooklyn
Department Makes Announcement as Part of National Wage Theft Day Commemoration

Albany, NY (November 19, 2009) - Can't See the video? Click Here to Get Adobe Flash Player. State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith today announced the findings of a targeted Labor Department investigation of restaurants and cafes in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. On April 29, 2009, sixteen Department of Labor investigators paid surprise visits to 25 restaurants and coffee shops along Fifth and Seventh Avenues, from late afternoon to ten o’clock at night.

Only two of the restaurants were found in compliance, while 23 had minimum wage, overtime, and other basic wage violations. After inspecting the 25 in Park Slope, the Department expanded the cases to include two jointly owned restaurants in adjacent neighborhoods. In total, 207 workers were underpaid more than $910,000. Some of the worst violations were for delivery employees working 60 to seventy hours per week and paid a salary of $210.00 to 275.00 per week. At one restaurant, workers were paid as little as $2.75 per hour.

“In the vibrant Park Slope neighborhood, filled with writers, activists, and growing families, we found that many of the bustling restaurants were staffed by workers who were paid grossly illegal wages,” said Commissioner Smith.  “This investigation shows that wage theft happens not only in dimly-lit factories or grim depressed neighborhoods -- it happens everywhere. Even our very nicest neighborhoods sometimes have sweatshops on their main streets. Today, during the National Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft, we continue to work for justice for these and other underpaid workers.”

To date, twelve cases have been resolved, and employers have signed settlement agreements. Thirteen cases are in active negotiation. The assessed underpayments total $912,237.

This investigation exemplifies the proactive approach taken by the Labor Department in recent years. Instead of handling complaints only, the Department engages in targeted neighborhood or industry sweeps.

New York State's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and employers are required to pay overtime for weekly hours past forty at one and one-half times the employee's regular pay rate. In certain limited cases, employers are permitted to pay a lower, “tipped” rate to employees who receive tips. However, employers must pay the appropriate wage to tipped employees and may not expect them to work for tips only. 

The State Labor Department encourages employers and workers to contact the department about wage and hour issues. Investigators will answer any questions regarding compliance with New York's labor laws. Information is also available on the department’s web site – www.labor.ny.gov; or by phone at 1-888-52-LABOR.