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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

US Department of Labor seeks restraining order to stop Evansville restaurant owner from intimidating workers, denying them back pay

(US Department of Labor seeks restraining order to stop Evansville

restaurant owner from intimidating workers, denying them back pay

Request for injunction follows lawsuit filing seeking $450K in back wages, damages)

EVANSVILLE - MARCH 7, 2024 – After learning an Evansville employer has engaged in an ongoing attempt to deprive current and former employees of the money found due to them following a federal wage investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order and injunction against Friendship Diner LLC and its owner, Bardhyl Shabani, and award punitive damages to employees.

Filed on March 6, 2024, by the department’s Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Western Division, the request for a restraining order is prompted by investigations by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that allege Shabani violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s anti-retaliation provisions by harassing and threatening employees to coerce them into giving false statements to investigators regarding the mandatory nature of Friendship Diner’s tip pool.

“The U.S. Department of Labor will pursue all available avenues to ensure workers receive their rightful wages and to make certain that employers using a tip credit follow all the legal requirements for doing so,” said Regional Solicitor Christine Heri in Chicago. “Furthermore, retaliation against employees is a clear violation of the law and we will use every available legal resource to protect workers and end retaliatory practices by employers, including seeking punitive damages for those harassed.”

On Feb. 28, 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a complaint in federal court seeking back wages and liquidated damages for 44 people employed by Friendship Diner LLC. The complaint is based on the Wage and Hour Division’s investigation finding that Friendship Diner LLC and Shabani owe $450,140 – representing $225,070 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages – to their employees.

Wage and Hour Division investigators examined pay records from Feb. 22, 2021 through Feb. 19, 2023 and alleged multiple violations by the Evansville restaurant, including:

Operating an illegal tip sharing pool by requiring servers to return $10 in tips for each weekday shift and $15 in tips for each weekend shift to management. Management kept the servers’ tips or paid bussers' hourly wages. This practice invalidates the employer’s ability to take a tip credit for servers.

Failing to pay all workers the federally required minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Failing to pay overtime at time and one-half the regular rate of pay for hours over 40 per week.

Paying kitchen staff half of their wages by payroll check and half in cash without combining hours and pay to calculate hours over 40 in a workweek for overtime purposes.

Failing to keep accurate payroll records.



“This employer is aware that his practice of sharing tips is not in compliance with the law. The actions our investigators found in this case are similar to violations found at a Wisconsin restaurant operated by Bardhyl Shabani in 2013,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Aaron Loomis in Indianapolis. “Federal wage laws detail specific criteria for the use of a tip pool and who can participate in such pools. Employers who violate federal wage laws will be held accountable for paying their workers all the wages they have earned.”

The case is being litigated by attorney Haley R. Jenkins of the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Chicago.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division.

For more information about the FLSA and other laws that prohibit retaliation, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers and employers can call the division confidentially with questions, and the division can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.


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