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Wage and Hour Watch: Federal Court Orders Massachusetts Restaurant to Pay More than $340,000 in Back Wages and Liquidated Damages to Workers

On February 11th, 2022, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that a federal court has ordered a Massachusetts restaurant to pay a collection of workers more than $340,000 in back wages. The court found the employer (Sweet Lemons Thai Restaurant of Weymouth) legally liable for failure to pay overtime, denied tips, and other wage and hour violations. In this article, our Springfield wage and hour lawyers offer a more comprehensive review of the violations committed by the Massachusetts restaurant. 

The Order: Wage and Hour Violations (Unpaid Overtime, Denied Tips, etc.)

The decision in this wage and hour case was issued by the United States District Court of the District of Massachusetts. In its order (Civil Action No. 20-12217-RGS), the court found numerous employment law violations by Sweet Lemons Thai Restaurant and its owner Pornthip Neampong. Upon reviewing the allegations raised against the Norfolk County restaurant, the Massachusetts federal court determined that: 

  • The employer failed to pay proper overtime wages;
  • The employer violated the record-keeping requirements of the FLSA;
  • Tips were retailed in violation of state and federal law; and
  • Workers were retaliated against for cooperating with the DOL. 

In total, the court assessed that thirteen current and former employees of the Massachusetts restaurant were unlawfully denied $159,899 in overtime wages and tips. The court awarded that amount in back wages. Additionally, the court doubled the amount, awarding another in liquidated damages $159,899. Further, a $25,000 punitive damage assessment was also issued. 

Employers Face Additional Sanctions for Wage and Hour Retaliation

Employees have a legal right to report suspected wage and hour violations and to cooperate with any investigation launched by federal or state regulators. As noted previously, Sweet Lemons Thai Restaurant and its owner Pornthip Neampong is being held liable for taking unlawful adverse action against employees in retaliation. To start, Mr. Neampong allegedly pressured workers into signing false statements in response to the DOL investigation. Further, Mr. Neampong also reportedly interrogated an employee to find out if they had cooperated with regulators.

Due to the severe nature of the wage and hour violations—including retaining all tips earned by employees—and the active undermining of the integrity of the investigation, the Massachusetts restaurant employer was held liable for both liquidated damages and punitive damages. State and federal courts may award employees punitive damages in wage and hours cases in which an employer engaged in unlawful retaliation. 

Contact Our Springfield, MA Wage and Hour Attorneys for Immediate Assistance

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Massachusetts wage and hour claims lawyers are proud to advocate for the legal rights of the hard-working people of our region. Call us at (413) 785-1400 or reach out to us online to arrange your confidential case evaluation. We represent workers in Springfield, Northampton, and throughout Western Massachusetts.