Workers at the once popular Princess Diner in Southampton were locked into a downward spiral with seemingly no way out: the harder they worked, the more management owed them. Wages and tips were promised but oftentimes didn’t materialize, leaving workers with children to feed and rents to pay but no money to cover expenses.
But the employees spoke out: reluctantly at first, but with a stronger voice as time passed. Last winter, authorities swooped in.
On Friday, December 7, Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho sentenced the owner of the diner, Richard Bivona, to six months in jail for scheming to defraud the workers. According to court documents, 23 employees were owed over $132,000 in back pay.
John Kalogeras, the former manager of the diner, and RJT Food and Restaurant, LLC were also implicated in the fraud.
According to a press release from New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood, workers were “falsely promised they would receive their wages, including credit card tips that had been illegally withheld.” The money was withheld beginning as far back as 2016, court documents reveal.
Bivona agreed to pay back $132,011 in unpaid wages as part of the deal. “Every worker is entitled to the wages they earn — period,” Underwood said in a prepared statement.
“When employers skirt the law and steal from their employees, they’ll face the consequences. We’ll continue to enforce the law to protect all New York workers,” she added.