Federal labor officials filed a lawsuit against the owners of Papa G’s, 10502 Route 47 in Huntley, alleging they intimidated and retaliated against their employees during a wage investigation. | Photo: Google Street View

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Papa G’s restaurant in Huntley after the owners allegedly intimidated and retaliated against their employees during a wage investigation.

The United States Department of Labor alleges Papa G’s, located at 10502 Route 47 in Huntley, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938.

Federal officials conducted an investigation into defendants Rick Tsakalios and Steve Tsakalios, the owners of Papa G’s, from February 2019 to January 2022.

The investigation reviewed the restaurant’s employment and pay practices, a civil complaint filed on Monday said.

Federal officials allege the Tsakalios repeatedly failed to pay their employees one and a half times their regular wages for working more than 40 hours per week.

The owners also allegedly failed to maintain accurate records of their employees’ work hours for the majority of the investigation period and even omitted some employees from time records, the complaint said.

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The Tsakalios knew they were required to pay their employees at one and a half times their regular wages for hours worked overtime because they paid for overtime hours in cash at their regular rates separate from check payments for non-overtime hours worked, the labor department alleged.

The defendants “knew or showed reckless disregard for whether the FLSA prohibited their conduct” when they maintained a duplicate set of business records and first produced a set of records that deliberately omitted overtime hours their employees worked, the complaint added.

The owners later produced a set of informal records which recorded actual hours worked between June 2020 and December 2020, and they produced a second set of informal records pursuant to a warrant that showed actual hours worked between January 2021 and June 2021.

The complaint said the defendants also violated and have continued to violate the FLSA by retaliating against and intimidating their employees who were communicating with the labor department.

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The defendants allegedly encouraged employees not to talk with federal officials, walked into the area where confidential employee interviews were taking place and threatened workers “by stating if a lawsuit was brought, they would receive nothing and something bad might happen to them,” the complaint added.

In a statement, the labor department said the Tsakalios “created a chilling effect on worker cooperation.”

Federal officials are asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to prevent the owners from interfering with the federal investigation and are also seeking to have Papa G’s pay nearly $60,000 in back wages and an equal amount of liquidated damages to employees.

“Threatening or intimidating employees to prevent their cooperation with U.S. Department of Labor investigators is illegal,” Christine Heri, Regional Solicitor at the U.S. Department of Labor, said.

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“Doing so discourages workers from asserting their rights and interferes with effective enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Our request for a temporary restraining order in this matter shows the department will do everything in its power to protect workers’ rights,” Heri added.