US Department of Labor found Sweet Lemon Inc., former owner retaliated against workers
BOSTON – An order issued by a federal judge in Massachusetts, has fully granted the U.S. Department of Labor’s motion for summary judgment regarding numerous violations of federal law by a Weymouth restaurant and its owner that deprived workers of their hard-earned wages and tips.
Entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the judgment orders Sweet Lemon Inc. – doing business as Sweet Lemons Thai Restaurant – and Pornthip Neampong to pay 13 affected workers $159,899 in back wages and tips, and an equal amount in liquidated damages, plus $25,000 in punitive damages, for a total of $344,798. The court also permanently enjoined the defendants from violating the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime, recordkeeping and anti-retaliation provisions in the future.
The court’s action follows a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation and litigation by the department’s Office of the Solicitor.
The court determined there was no dispute that Sweet Lemon Inc. and Pornthip Neampong violated the FLSA as follows. The employers:
- Failed to pay employees one and one-half times their rate of pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek.
- Kept all the tips the servers earned.
- Failed to maintain true and accurate records of employees’ work hours and wages.
- Retaliated against workers by having them sign statements containing false information and by interrogating an employee as to whether they spoke with the Wage and Hour Division.
“Sweet Lemon Inc. and Pornthip Neampong disregarded the rights of their essential workers to receive fair pay, and retaliated against employees who asserted their rights and cooperated with a federal investigation,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carlos Matos in Boston. “The Wage and Hour Division does not tolerate FLSA retaliation against employees. Employees and employers alike should feel free to contact the Wage and Hour Division to learn about their respective rights and responsibilities under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We suggest other employers review their own pay practices to prevent violations.”
“In this significant victory for restaurant workers, the Secretary of Labor has recovered almost $320,000 in back wages, tips and liquidated damages for 13 employees who were denied the overtime compensation and tips that they worked hard to earn. The court’s decision recognizes that employers who retaliate against employees who assert their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act may pay the price in punitive damages. In this case, these punitive damages total $25,000. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to pursuing all necessary legal avenues to obtain proper compensation for employees and deter retaliation and future violations by employers,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston.
The Wage and Hour Division’s Boston District Office conducted the original investigation. The Boston Regional Solicitor’s Office litigated the case for the division.
Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
Civil Action No. 20-12217-RGS.