Attorney General Cuomo Announces Settlement With New York City Restaurant For Labor Violations

NEW YORK, NY (September 28, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a $515,000 settlement with Manhattan-based Nino’s Positano Ristorante Italiano for failing to pay workers legal wages and overtime.

Nino’s Positano Ristorante Italiano, owned by Shemsi Selimaj a.k.a Nino Selimaj, is located at 890 2nd Avenue in New York City.  The Attorney General’s investigation into the restaurant, which was initiated by complaints from employees, found that waiters, bussers, and runners worked an average of 60-72 hours each week, but were only paid for the first 40 hours of work.  In addition, prep cooks, dishwashers, and other employees were underpaid by over $100 per week.  The restaurant hid these legal violations by failing to keep records, as required by law, and at times taking workers entirely off the payroll.  

Under the settlement, Nino’s will pay $515,000 in back-pay and damages to workers.  Nino’s will also be subject to ongoing monitoring by the Attorney General’s office to ensure its compliance with the settlement.  In total, up to 45 workers are owed as much as $9,000 each for each year of employment.

“No workers should be cheated out of the wages that they rightfully earn,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “With our action today we are sending a message to all restaurants: exploiting employees will not be tolerated and any wrongdoers will be held accountable.”  

Under state law, employers are required to pay employees at least the basic minimum wage of $7.25 for every hour worked and overtime at a rate of time and one half of the employee’s regular rate of pay for every hour worked above forty.  Under certain conditions, tipped workers may be paid a lower hourly wage as long as their effective wage for the week, including tips, equals at least $7.25 per hour.

The action announced today is the latest front of Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing investigation into abuses in the restaurant industry, including:

  • In December 2009, the Attorney General settled a case with several Manhattan and Brooklyn-based restaurants over labor violations.  The restaurants were: Spice Place, Inc.; Spice Avenue, Inc.; Bangkok Palace II, Inc.; Spice City, Inc.; Spice West, Inc.; and Kitlen, Inc.  As a result of the settlement, the restaurants were required to pay $650,000 in unpaid wages and damages and forced to reform employment practices.

  • In October 2009, the Attorney General obtained a guilty plea from Simon Nget, the owner of New York City-based Saigon Grill restaurants, for witness tampering, taking illegal kickbacks from workers, cheating the state unemployment insurance fund, and creating fraudulent business records to cover up illegal actions.  Nget was sentenced to 90 days incarceration for tampering with a witness and retaliation.

  • In June 2009, the Attorney General obtained a guilty plea from Atmi Kurtishi, the owner of Madrits Pronto Pizza in Manhattan, for failing to secure workers’ compensation coverage, pay overtime wages, and make required contributions to the state unemployment insurance fund.  Kurtishi also submitted false statements to the Workers’ Compensation Board and the Department of Labor.  Kurtishi and his corporation pled guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor.  Kurtishi has paid over $135,000 in back wages, unpaid unemployment insurance premiums, workers’ compensation board penalties, and interest.

New Yorkers who believe they are being denied legal wages by an employer are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-771-7755 or visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.ag.ny.gov .

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General C. Michael Higgins, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Chief Patricia Kakalec.
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