Court orders Delco diner to pay $1.35 million in back wages to staff after investigation

Thursday, September 15, 2022
Court: Diner to pay $1.35M in back wages to staff after investigation
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"We only here trying to make a living to feed our family and you are taking advantage of us. You took our money and knew that," said a former employee of the Delaware County diner.

LANSDOWNE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Servers and kitchen workers employed by a Delaware County diner have some money coming to them.

The government wants to right a wrong and just ordered Empire Diner to pay more than a million dollars in back wages.

"We only here trying to make a living to feed our family and you are taking advantage of us. You took our money and knew that. They knew what they were doing was wrong," said a former Empire Diner employee.

She doesn't want to be identified but the former employee tells Action News she worked for Empire Diner in Lansdowne. She says she is owed a lot of money from her time there.

"When I first came into the diner it was ok, it was pretty good. But as time went on, I noticed a few things. We had to pay out to pay the bus boys and that was mandatory. We had to do that," the woman said.

A federal court has recently ordered the diner, its owner and a manager to pay more than $1.35 million in back wages and liquidated damages to 107 servers and kitchen workers from the period of January 2015 to January 2018.

"In this investigation, what we found with Empire Diner, was that the employers were requiring servers to turn over a portion of their tips that were due to those employees. They also were paying the kitchen staff straight time for overtime, so anything over 40 hours in a week was not being paid correctly. And back to the tipped employees, one of the issues was they were not paid the correct rate for overtime hours," said Jim Cain, the district director for the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

The woman who spoke with Action News says she is one of the 107 affected and says of their tips, they had to give 15%, 20% depending on the day.

"They were taking advantage of us. We were working for our livelihood and they were working for their livelihood, which is whatever they can get. And the little people stayed down. They was growing and we stayed down," she said.

According to the Department of Labor, Empire Diner was investigated once previously for overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Folks who frequent the diner are disheartened by the news.

"That's unfortunate that they haven't been treating the employees right. Things always come back to haunt you," said Stan Drisco of Lansdowne.

"I've gone to that diner for years and I just can't believe they would do that," said Eileen Green of Yeadon.

Our attempts to reach the diner's owner were unsuccessful.

He has until October 18 to file an appeal.

The Department of Labor wants anyone who thinks they may be affected by this case to call them at 215-597-4950.