Empire Gas to Pays More than $500,000 to Settle Wage Dispute

Empire Gas, which operates 14 gas stations in Riverhead, N.Y., and its owners, will pay $544,900 in back wages and interest to 35 employees to settle a lawsuit brought against the firm by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The suit was based on an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a statement.

Additionally, Riverhead-based E.M.&T. Inc., doing business as Empire Gas, and owners Ali Yuzbasioglu and Sukru Ilgin, will pay the Labor Department $39,077 in civil penalties and interest for the violations.

A previous investigation led to a 2004 judgment in which the defendants agreed to pay more than $943,000 in back wages and to comply with the law in the future. The back wages were paid in full, but a second investigation found additional violations between January 2008 and January 2011, including underpayment of workers, and failure to maintain accurate and adequate payroll records.

Among other practices, the defendants failed to pay overtime to employees who often worked between 84 and 114 hours per week, and paid some employees completely off the books. In addition to conducting employee interviews, the Labor Department engaged in surveillance to determine the actual hours worked by employees.

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