ATTLEBORO — The owners of two Attleboro restaurants who have to pay nearly $400,000 in back wages and other charges and penalties for violating labor laws say the violations were unintentional and stemmed from wrongly classifying their cooks as supervisors.

Vassilios and Nikolaos Nicolos own Briggs Corner Pizzeria at 1123 Oak Hill Ave. and had operated Mediterranean Grill & Pizzeria at 595 Washington St. (Route 1). They also own a Bellingham restaurant, Coachmen’s Lodge, that also was found by the federal Department of Labor to have violated employment laws.

“We have been in business for thirty years. We have always treated our employees with dignity and respect,” the Nicoloses said in a statement sent Thursday to The Sun Chronicle through their attorney, Roger Ferris of Attleboro. “Our cooks were paid salaries above industry standards.

“During an investigation by the Labor Department, it was determined that the cooks did not qualify as supervisors and must be paid overtime where it applies. There was never an intention by our family to deprive any employee of their legitimate earnings and we intend to comply with our agreement with the Labor Department.”

Following the Labor Department investigation and a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, the restaurant owners were ordered to pay $392,392 in back wages, damages and penalties.

Under a court consent agreement that resolves the suit, the Nicoloses are required to pay $355,944 in back wages and liquidated damages to 52 employees to resolve violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They will also pay a civil penalty of $36,448 because their violations were willful and repeated, the Labor Department said in a statement released Wednesday.

Investigators with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division found the establishments and owners violated the FLSA’s overtime and record-keeping requirements.

The defendants paid tipped employees an overtime premium based on one-and-one-half times the Massachusetts tipped employee cash wage instead of the employees’ regular rates of pay.

By doing so, they made overtime payments to workers at rates lower than those the FLSA requires, the Labor Department found. They also paid kitchen and grounds employees flat salaries, which resulted in overtime violations because they failed to pay the required overtime premium to employees who worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, the department found.

They also failed to keep accurate records of the number of hours employees worked, it found.

An employee at Mediterranean said the Nicoloses no longer operate that business.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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