Antonia’s Pizzeria in Freeport is the subject of a federal Labor Department investigation into overtime wages. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing a Freeport pizza parlor, alleging the owner dissuaded employees from cooperating with a wage investigation and even attempted to bribe one worker.

The owner of Antonia’s Pizzeria, Lee Sotiropoulos, urged employees not to cooperate with the investigators and instructed workers to provide false information about their schedules and wages, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Portland federal court. The 11-page complaint also claims Sotiropoulos promised $500 to a former Antonia’s cook, Aliyah Palmer, if she “stuck up” for the restaurant during the investigation.

The Labor Department lawsuit seeks to stop Sotiropoulos and his company from discussing the investigation with current and former employees and seeks unspecified damages for what the department called “alarming retaliation” against the workers.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Sotiropoulos said he didn’t have a complete understanding of the allegations in the filing, but denied intimidating workers and blamed his former payroll system for any problems with overtime wages being improperly recorded.

“I wasn’t doing it properly,” he said about the payroll system, and claimed the problem has been corrected since switching vendors.

Sotiropoulos said he told a group of employees about the issue and said he wanted to make sure their hours were properly reported, but said he did not pressure any of them about talking to investigators.


The Labor Department opened its investigation in November after Palmer, who worked for Antonia’s from 2021 to 2022, reported that she regularly worked more than 40 hours a week but was paid at her regular rate for the additional hours instead of the overtime rate. Extra pay was later recorded as a bonus on her pay stubs, she said.

Sotiropoulos claimed the $500 he offered Palmer was the amount still due her for overtime work, according to the complaint.

Investigators also said that Sotiropoulos contacted Palmer and other current and former employees and urged them to either not cooperate with the Labor Department or to report a false hourly wage.

Palmer initially reported to investigators that her overtime pay was correct, the filing said, but almost immediately contacted them to say she had lied because Sotiropoulos told her the restaurant would be hurt economically by the allegations.

Other employees also reported that Sotiropoulos told them to provide false information about hourly wages, the filing said.

The filing doesn’t provide any information about the Department of Labor’s investigation or a specific amount of damages being sought for the alleged retaliation against workers.

Antonia’s, at 193 Lower Main St. in Freeport, has been in operation since 2007.

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