A federal judge has refused to dismiss claims that two well-known Filipino restaurants in New York City deprived their employees of the minimum wage and overtime pay.
Pan de Sal and Grill 21 in Manhattan are facing a class-action lawsuit accusing them of violating state and federal minimum wage and overtime laws.
Former Employee Alleges Company Wage Theft
The lawsuit was brought by a former employee, Violeta Morales, on behalf of herself and all other hourly employees at the two restaurants and four other companies owned by Marissa Teves Beck.
The complaint alleges that Mrs. Beck cheated employees out of their compensation by refusing to report all the hours the employees worked to the payroll companies that prepared their paychecks.
The restaurant owner asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, but the judge denied the motion. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein found that “the complaint sufficiently alleges, against all defendants, its claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.” Judge Hellerstein also found that the claim for a collective action on behalf of all of the current and former employees was sufficiently stated.
The complaint points to what it calls Mrs. Beck’s “history of willfully failing to pay employees the wages they are legally entitled to receive.” The complaint states that the U.S. Department of Labor issued a determination letter in 2008 finding that Mrs. Beck cheated employees out of more than $3 million in wages and, in 2009, a federal court entered a permanent injunction against Mrs. Beck.
New Lawsuit Made Necessary By Willful Contempt
According to Ms. Morales’ complaint, the new lawsuit “has been made necessary by Mrs. Beck’s willful contempt for this Court’s permanent injunction and the rights of her employees.” Ms. Morales also alleges that Mrs. Beck attempted to conceal her illegal activity by creating multiple sets of payroll records, paying employees “off the books,” and moving employees from the books of one corporate entity to another without regard to where they actually worked.
Judge Hellerstein ordered the defendants to answer the class action complaint and scheduled a status conference at 10:00 a.m. on May 30, 2014.
The plaintiff is represented by John Howley, a New York lawyer who has lived in the Philippines and speaks Tagalog. The defendants are represented by Concepcion Montoya, a Fil-Am lawyer with the firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP.