Car dealer agrees to pay $450K in restitution

Bryan Cohen Sep. 14, 2011, 1:19pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced an agreement with a West Springfield car dealership and has ordered a restaurant to pay restitution over alleged labor violations this week.

Balise Motor Sales Inc. and James E. Balaise, Jr.. its president, agreed to pay over $450,000 in restitution Tuesday, in addition to a $7,500 penalty for allegedly violating the state's wage and hour laws.

"In these particularly difficult economic times, many employees are working longer hours to make ends meet," Coakley said. "Employers are required by law to pay their employees all of the wages they are owed, and our office will continue to ensure that workers' rights are protected."

Coakley's office received a complaint from a former employee of Balise alleging overtime and minimum wage pay violations. Coakley alleged that Balise was not calculating the proper overtime rate for employees working over 40 hours in a week and was not paying the minimum wage to some of its employees. After a request that Balise conduct a self-audit of its payroll records from 2008 through 2010, the audit allegedly revealed that Balise failed to calculate the proper overtime rate and, in some instances, failed to pay the minimum wage. Belise has agreed to pay $339,871.36 in restitution for the alleged overtime violations and $110,766.27 for the alleged minimum wage violations to over 270 employees.

On Wednesday, Coakley's office cited McGovern's Restaurant of Fall River and Patricia A. McGovern, its president, for allegedly violating the state's tip and record keeping laws. Coakley's office ordered McGovern's restaurant and McGovern to pay $194,435.34 in restitution and a $40,000 penalty for the alleged tip law violations, as well as a $2,000 penalty for alleged failure to furnish records.

"Tips belong to employees, not the employer," Coakley said. "Many workers in the service and wait staff industries depend on tips - their main wages - to feed their own families and they deserve to be paid what they earn."

Coakley alleged that the restaurant did not properly distribute the tips received from banquet functions to wait staff employees as required by state law. In addition, management was allegedly sharing in the tips, which is also prohibited. It is a violation of state tip laws for anyone other than service employees, wait staff or service bartenders to share or receive tips remitted by patrons. Non-service employees and management are specifically prohibited from receiving or sharing tips.

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