As discussed in our previous blogs, complaints by restaurant employees seem to be a big trend, and that trend seems to only continue to grow – and not only in New York City.
Upper Crust Pizzeria, for example, a gourmet pizza chain located in multiple states, has been accused of exploiting workers, and now owes employees more than $850,000 in back wages and damages for violating minimum-wage and overtime laws. While Upper Crust’s immigrant workers seemingly embraced their jobs allowing them to send money to their families and improve their lives back home, management allegedly began underpaying them for long work weeks, and the workers eventually made complaints to the Department of Labor (the “DOL”).
The DOL first investigated Upper Crust’s pay practices between April 2007 through April 2009, and found that the company violated minimum-wage and overtime laws by failing to pay 121 employees in 10 stores roughly $350,000. Now, the DOL’s second investigation of pay practices at Upper Crust between April 2009 and January 2011 found that the company violated minimum-wage and overtime laws and failed to pay 67 employees roughly $425,000 during that period. Upper Crust also owes an equal amount in liquidated damages, as well as $37,000 in civil penalties.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney who filed the class-action suit on behalf of former Upper Crust workers, said she is not surprised by the DOL’s finding. “This company has repeatedly shown its disregard for the laws protecting workers and their wages,” she said.
Clearly, more and more restaurants are becoming targets of their disgruntled employees armed with ambitious attorneys alleging wage and hour violations. Although oftentimes business owners do not even realize that they are violating federal and/or state wage and hour laws, we again want to emphasize the importance of ensuring compliance with those laws. Make sure your company does not become known as one with disregard for the law!