File Photo – Papa G’s in Huntley | Photo: Google Street View

The owners of Papa G’s restaurant in Huntley have been ordered to pay employees over $100,000 after officials say they illegally denied workers overtime wages and tried interfering in a federal investigation.

U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard last month ordered Rick Tsakalios and Steve Tsakalios, the owners of Papa G’s, to pay eight employees more than $105,000 in back wages and damages.

Federal officials said the owners attempted to interfere with a U.S. Department of Labor investigation that found they illegally denied their workers earned overtime wages.

That prompted a federal court to issue a preliminary injunction in June 2022 to Papa G’s restaurant and its owners ordering them to cease their attempts to obstruct the investigation.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the employers told workers they did not have to speak with investigators, questioned those who did and hindered workers’ cooperation.

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The restaurant operators also provided falsified payroll records to investigators.

Investigators audited the employers’ payroll practices from Feb. 5, 2019, to Feb. 4, 2022, and determined they did not pay workers overtime for hours over 40 in a week.

They instead either paid the affected employees straight-time rates or “banked” the hours to cover employees’ time off requests for when they did not work 40 hours in a week, the labor department said.

After being given the falsified records showing that employees rarely worked overtime, investigators obtained a second set of records showing employees worked far more than 40 hours per week and that Papa G’s paid employees straight-time rates in cash for overtime hours.

A warrant served on the employers’ accountant recovered additional records that confirmed the practice, the labor department said.

The court order entered last month was a joint agreement between the labor department and Papa G’s, court records show.

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In addition to the monetary payment in the case, the order permanently forbids the owners from interfering with workers and investigators.

The order also requires the restaurant to hire an independent accountant to audit payroll records for three years to ensure compliance.

“A federal court has upheld the findings of our investigation that Papa G’s denied eight workers the overtime wages they earned legally and then obstructed a federal investigation,” said U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division District Director Tom Gauza.

“The court’s action will also lead to the recovery of more than $105,000 in back wages and damages for eight restaurant employees who worked long hours to put food on their own tables,” Gauza said.

Papa G’s will additionally be required to provide its employees with information about federal wage laws and their rights.