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Friday, May 1, 2015

WIRAC Clinic Files Lawsuit Against Goodfellas Restaurant in New Haven

On May 1, 2015, five former workers from Goodfellas Restaurant in New Haven filed a federal lawsuit against the restaurant alleging wage theft, harassment, and racketeering offenses. The plaintiffs are represented by the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School.

In the past, Goodfellas’ owners Gennaro Iannaccone and Andrea Coppola repeatedly violated state and federal labor law and were required to pay over $30,000 for wages illegally stolen from workers, according to the clinic. The suit alleges that the owners and managers of Goodfellas, located on the corner of Trumbull and State streets, continued to exploit and harass their workers, refusing to pay minimum wage and overtime.

The complaint explains that the managers belittled the workers with racist, xenophobic, and homophobic slurs, and also subjected them to brutal physical working conditions. The lawsuit also states that the workers suffered burns, bruises, and other physical and emotional harm as a result of Iannaccone and Coppola’s abuse, and that the bosses employed fraud and deception to conceal their crimes while threatening and intimidating the workers to prevent them from seeking legal redress.

“He [Iannaccone] called us dogs and screamed at us constantly,” said Abimael Perez, a former Goodfellas employee and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “We were treated like animals.”

“Goodfellas Restaurant has betrayed and embarrassed the New Haven community with its flagrant violations of workers’ rights and federal law,” said Will Bloom ’17, a law student intern in the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. “Despite past findings of minimum wage and overtime violations by the U.S. Department of Labor, the owners have brazenly and defiantly continued to mistreat their loyal staff. But no one is above the law.”

“We want employers to know that we won’t rest until there is justice for workers,” said John Lugo of Unidad Latina en Acción. “Workers, know your rights, and together we will put an end to forced labor and exploitation.”

Students in the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic represent immigrants, low-wage workers, and their organizations in labor, immigration, criminal justice, civil rights, and other matters. The clinic docket includes cases at all stages of legal proceedings in Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. District Court, the Second Circuit, and before Connecticut state agencies and courts. Its non-litigation work includes the representation of grassroots organizations, labor unions, and other groups in regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.