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By Sadef Ali Kully

A KFC Corporation franchisee which operates 13 stores in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan agreed to pay $375,000 in restitution for several labor-law violations, the state attorney general announced.

The company, Divine Investors LLC, and its owner, Hiren Patel, violated labor laws such as requiring employees to continue to work after they clocked out, not paying all required overtime and failing to cover the cost of laundering employees’ uniforms, according to the settlement. More than 700 current and former employees are eligible for restitution under the settlement.

Divine Investors and Patel own and operate the KFC franchise on 140-04 Queens Blvd. near the corner of Hillside Avenue. Patel is also part owner in 27 other KFC franchises, including eight located in Flushing, Jamaica and Woodside.

“This KFC franchisee ignored certain basic laws protecting his low-wage workers, and this is simply not acceptable,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “In New York, we have one set of rules for everyone, and all employers must comply with our labor laws.”

During the investigation into Divine Investors and Patel, the AG’s team found that Patel regularly failed to pay proper overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours per week, on occasion required employees to continue working after clocking out and treated certain managers as exempt from the overtime pay requirement. He also failed to pay workers for “call-in pay,” or compensation for being called in to work and then being sent home before clocking in or being sent home early and required cashiers to pay cash register shortages out of their pocket in order to keep their jobs, according to court records.

“Finally we’re getting some restitution for the way we were treated on the job,” said Shenita Simon, a Queens mother of four who worked at a KFC franchise owned by Patel from 2011 to 2014. “No one deserves to be intimidated on the job or have their wages stolen. This settlement is proof that when workers join together, we’re able to hold our employers accountable to the law. It is a good first step in ensuring that all low-wage workers in New York State are treated with dignity and respect.”

In addition to the payments, Divine will designate internal compliance officers responsible for ensuring labor law compliance going forward. For the next three years, the compliance officers will provide the attorney general’s office with quarterly reports and payroll documents to ensure that Divine complies with labor laws.

Since 2011, Schneiderman has secured more than $20 million in restitution for more than 17,000 workers across New York, and recovered more than $2 million in restitution and penalties for the state.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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