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Post date: November 13 2003

Spitzer Urges Elias' Corner Workers To Claim Their Unpaid Wages

New York State Attorney General Spitzer today urged workers who were employed by Elias Corner Restaurant for Fish between January 1, 1997 and July 15, 2002 to file claims for unpaid wages from a settlement fund established earlier this year as a result of an investigation by his office. The deadline for filing claims is March 31, 2004. Claim Forms can be obtained by calling (212) 416-8695.

On June 24, 2003, Spitzer announced an agreement with the Astoria seafood restaurant to resolve charges of labor law violations. Under the settlement, the restaurant and its owner, have established a fund of nearly $460,000 to pay back wages and interest to current and former wait staff. Payments from the fund will be made on a monthly basis through the Attorney General’s Office for the next four years.

The claims period will be closed on March 31, 2004, and each individual claimant’s portion of the settlement fund will be determined. Each claimant’s share of the settlement fund will be based on the hours and time period that he or she worked at Elias Corner. Each claimant will then be notified by mail of the amount of his or her restitution award and the anticipated dates of payment. It is extremely important that workers notify the Attorney General’s office of any changes to their address or telephone number so that they will be kept informed of any information related to this claims process.

Spitzer's office initiated an investigation in late 2001, when several former waiters and waitresses of Elias Corner complained that their only payment for work was based on gratuities. The AG's investigation revealed that prior to July 2002, the restaurant's wait staff was compensated only by tips, which is a violation of state and federal minimum wage and overtime provisions. New York State's Labor Law requires that all waiters and waitresses, even those receiving a substantial amount of tips, must be paid the food service worker minimum wage of $3.30 per hour.

"Restaurants must not be allowed to circumvent the laws by shifting their labor costs to their customers," Spitzer said. "The law requires an employer to pay workers a minimum wage regardless of the amount of tips received. My office will continue to vigorously enforce the labor laws in all industries, including the restaurant industry."

The settlement also requires the restaurant to pay the minimum wage and overtime wages to all current and future employees of Elias Corner, and to provide all current and future employees of Elias Corner with wage statements.

The investigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General Devin A. Rice of the AG's Labor Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Jennifer S. Brand, and Investigator Ed Elie of the AG's Investigations Bureau.