Underpaying Workers Costs Greek Diner Owners

colony_diner_firstpageThe Greek owners of Colony Diner in East Meadow, George Strifas, 46, of East Hills and his cousin Thomas Strifas, 41, of Merrick have pleaded guilty for underpaying 72 workers and for falsifying records, on April 29.

The two owners face up to four years in prison when they are sentenced on July 17. They have agreed to pay more than $500,000 as part of the plea: $337,780 in back wages to settle minimum and overtime violations, $163,742 in damages to the employees and $48,681 in state unemployment insurance payments, as reported in NewsDay.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s office and federal and state labor departments have conducted a joint investigation and revealed the Greek owners’ guilt. It was the first such joint investigation under New York State’s Wage Theft Prevention Act, which took effect in April 2011.

Irv Miljoner who heads the U.S. Labor Department’s Westbury office which initiated the probe said: “The results send a clear message to employers that there are real consequences to wage theft and cash-off-the-book payments.” He added: “Underpaying your workers it not the way to do business.”

The local office of the US Labor Department contacted the district attorney in March 2011 after the agency’s third probe for Colony Diner since 1999, which concluded that the diner continued to violate overtime and minimum-wage laws and continued to pay most of its employees off the books.

Between September 2007 and September 2010, the Colony servers sometimes earned less than $2 an hour and the kitchen staff earned no overtime despite working 50 to 60 hours a week, as the office’s latest probe found out. And it found that the diner falsified its records.

“Labor laws exist to ensure that hardworking employees are paid every penny of their wages,” said District Attorney Kathleen Rice.


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