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Woodside eatery ordered to fork over unpaid wages

Pollos A La Brasa Marion, at 69-01 Roosevelt Ave., claimed it was unaware of the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage and overtime pay required under federal law and paid its workers a daily rate regardless of the number of hours they worked from Sept. 7, 2002 to Sept. 7, 2004, Department spokesman John Chavez said. Chavez did not know what the daily rate was.The restaurant paid $15,543 in minimum wage back pay to nine workers, and $17,241 in overtime for all 12, Chavez said. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for all work over 40 hours. Pollos A La Brasa faces no other penalties, the spokesman said. The restaurant's owner could not be reached for comment."These back wages have been paid," Chavez said. "We just got them to pay the workers the wages they already owed them." More than half of Woodside's residents are immigrants, mostly from Ecuador and Mexico, according to the latest population figures from the 2000 census. Employers in immigrant neighborhoods might be more likely to take advantage of their workers, Chavez said. "Unfortunately, it's not uncommon at all. You see a lot of these cases," he said. "It's certainly possible that employers of immigrant workers who might not be familiar with their rights under the law might be tempted to do this."Last month a chain of car washes in Queens in Brooklyn paid 56 workers a total of $80,000 in back pay for minimum and overtime wages violations, according to the Labor Department. Two operations in Fresh Meadows agreed to give overtime back pay to its workers. Savvy Car Wash distributed $30,000 to 27 workers and Hand Car Wash gave $24,000 to 16 employees, the Labor Department said. And in January, three Jackson Heights restaurants that have the same owner paid out $225,000 in back pay to 43 workers for similar violations. Pollos Mario Restaurant on 37th Avenue and Pollos A La Brasa Mario and Cositas Ricas - both on Roosevelt Avenue - were paying tipped employees $20 a shift regardless of the hours they worked, the Labor Department said. Reach Matt Monks at news@timesledger.com or 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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