For 11 years, Hispanic workers have been waiting for their former boss, the owner of a popular Italian restaurant in Nassau County (Long Island, NY), to pay them tens of thousands of dollars in back wages.
According to court documents, Nick Angelis, identified in court documents as the owner of “Sunrise Pizza,” also known as “Nick’s Pizza” in Rockville Centre, owes $283,551 to eight of his former employees, ABC News reported. The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) calculated the figure.
“I put too much love into this job, and now where is the money?” asks Jorge Martinez Romero, who has worked at Nick’s Pizza since 2003 and, according to DOL records, is owed $41,065.14.
In August 2011, the DOL cited Angelis for violating state wage laws and ordered him to pay the workers $283,551. But those affected claim they never received notice of the compliance order and only learned about it ten years later.
ABC News reporter Kristin Thorne teamed up with Hofstra University news portal The Long Island Advocate to follow up on the investigation.
Former employees told them that for years they worked 60 to 75 hours a week and were paid a flat rate that amounted to well below minimum wage, both in cash and by check. And when they spoke to management about their low wages, they were told they could find other employment.
“They treated people like animals,” said Julio Contreras, another of the former workers interviewed. In 2009 they filed a complaint with the DOL. But “Nick’s Pizza has gotten away with it for years, and the state has not received the money for these workers,” said Nadia Marin-Molina of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).
The New York DOL said, “We are actively working on this case and prepared to implement all available measures to ensure these workers receive the payment they are owed. Wage theft will not be tolerated, and the DOL remains committed to protecting hardworking New Yorkers from bad actors who attempt to scam them out of their hard-earned wages.”
Angelis has not been available for comment. Miguel Alassevillano of Workplace Project in Hempstead has also been trying to help workers since they came to a community meeting organized by his group. For him, this is a human rights issue. “They should be paid and compensated,” he said.