The owner and manager of a Delaware County diner "illegally seized tips" and underpaid workers for overtime hours, the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division alleges in a federal lawsuit.

The department sued Mosluoglu Inc. president Ihsan Gunaydin and restaurant manager Engin Gunaydin after its investigators found they "seized 10 to 15 percent of servers' total tips per shift" at their Empire Diner & Restaurant in Lansdowne. The agency alleged that they paid some workers straight-time rates for overtime hours, and that some servers "were given time and one-half their cash wages" of $2.83 per hour, instead of basing overtime on the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, as the Fair Labor Standards Act requires.

"This is the first I'm hearing of this," Engin Gunaydin said, when reached at the diner by phone. "It's news to me. We've been here 20 years, we have never had a problem like this. We're here 24 hours [a day]. The local politicians come here, they bring their families. [State Sen.] Anthony Williams [D., Phila.] is here with his family all the time. The Heinzes, the ketchup family, they've been here." He said his father, company president Ihsan Gunaydin, is out of the country on vacation and will address any allegations when he returns next week.

Sen. Williams "has gone there, he frequents a lot of restaurants in the district, but it's not one of his favorites. His favorite is Cedar Park," on Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia, clarified Sabrina Hall, the senator's spokesperson. She added that Williams was not aware of the Labor Department complaint.

The government said it wants the diner operators to pay "back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages for 83 employees," and to retroactively pay workers who may have had their tips reduced the full minimum wage (and overtime based on the minimum) instead of the lower restaurant cash wage rate, which assumes workers will also keep their tips.

The lawsuit alleged "willful violations of the federal wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions" of the act.

In a statement, James Cain, the department's wage and hour director for the Philadelphia region, encouraged employers confused by the law to contact his office "for assistance so that violations like these can be avoided." The office can be reached at 866-487-9243 and http://www.dol.gov/whd.