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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Labor Department Busts Omaha Hotelier

OMAHA (CN) - An Omaha-based hotelier forced "resident employees" to work 16-hour shifts seven days a week, without overtime, and threatened to fire workers who cooperated with federal investigators, the Secretary of Labor claims in court.

Defendant Mukesh Patel, president and part owner of six corporations that operate budget hotels in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, tried to cover up numerous irregularities with employment records at the hotels, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez claims in the Feb. 5 federal lawsuit.

The Department of Labor claims that Patel makes "resident employees," who live and work in his hotels, to work up to 16 hours per day, seven days a week, without overtime and/or at less than minimum wage.

In all, different employees were denied a total of $283,519 in wages, the secretary says.

These include workers in management, housekeeping, maintenance and reception, who often work and live at more than one of Patel's hotels.

Some resident employees received "cash wages in the amount of $200 per week or less as compensation for all hours worked," according to the complaint.

Other employees were received no pay at all beyond lodging for the work they provided. Little to no record was kept of what work was performed and who performed it.

With a dearth of information to counter the claims of investigators, Patel allegedly discouraged employees from talking with investigators, even threatening to fire those who cooperated.

Patel and his six related hotel corporations violated numerous provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the secretary says. All six hotels share business operations and are considered a common enterprise run by Patel, his wife, and his son, according to the complaint.

The government demands back pay and an injunction.

Also named as defendants are BM Hotels Inc., Boney Corp., Nana Corp., JM Hotels Inc., Varaha Inc., and Vyara Inc.

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