WEST VILLAGE — A trendy West Village restaurant and lounge was fined $200,000 for underpaying more than two dozen employees and then firing two who spoke out against their labor practices, the New York State Attorney General said Thursday.
Veranda, on Seventh Avenue and West 10th Street, paid 25 employees below minimum wage, gave them no overtime and illegally distributed tips to managers, the AG's office said.
“By scaring employees into silence, employer retaliation undermines basic labor law protections. Now Veranda will be held accountable for violating the laws that protect our state’s most vulnerable workers,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.
“My office will aggressively pursue employers who fire workers for standing up for their rights — especially during tough economic times, when so many workers are already afraid of losing their jobs.”
Under the Wage Theft Prevention Act passed last April it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report labor violations.
That month, workers complained about the treatment and two of the them had their schedules immediately reduced. They were fired shortly after, according to court papers.
The establishment will have to pay $150,000 in restitution to employees and $50,000 in damages for terminating the two workers.
“I never thought Veranda would pay me the wages they owed me and I did not believe they would be held accountable for retaliating against me after I stood up for my rights as a worker," said one of the fired employees, Isidro.
"When I received the news that the Attorney General had reached an agreement with my ex-employer, I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it."
Community members also complained about the lounge operating as a nightclub after hours even though it does not have a cabaret license, according to Community Board 2 records.
Veranda did not provide an immediate comment.