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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Queens restaurant workers struggling with wage theft

Wait staff and cooks in two Queens restaurants say their wages are rotten.

Restaurant workers at Elias Corner Restaurant for Fish in Astoria and Aqui en Bella Puebla in Jackson Heights often go without minimum wage or overtime, according to lawsuits.

Employees at the eateries are waiting for judgement even though the state resolved 6,794 wage complaints last year.

“These violations are rampant and there’s just not enough enforcement either on the public level or the private level to make a huge dent,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project.

New York City’s 300,000 low-wage workers lose $18.4 million per week in unpaid wages, according to the advocacy group.

Three former employees of Elias Corner allege their boss Ilias Sidiroglov owes them $350,000, according to a lawsuit filed last year in Brooklyn Federal Cour. In 2003, Sidiroglov shelled out $460,000 in lost wages to workers.

“My only conclusion is it makes financial sense for him to handle these lawsuits every few years rather than comply with wage laws,” said lawyer Justin Zeller, who represents two cooks and a waitress.

Sidiroglov declined to comment.

About three miles away in Jackson Heights, former waitress Claudia Leon says Aqui en Bella Puebla paid her just $300 for a 48-hour week.

“The owner would say that, ‘this is one of the best restaurants in the area, and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else,’” said Leon, 36.

Leon is currently pursuing a lawsuit against owner Argimiro Hernandez and planning a protest outside the restaurant with Make the Road New York. She has yet to file the suit.

Hernandez says she received her full wages.

“No, she’s lying,” Hernandez said.

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