A chain of pizzerias in Massachusetts and New York faces a multi-million dollar lawsuit from current and former employees who say they were denied proper compensation for their work.
Our Boston business lawyers understand that Massachusetts employment and wage laws are among the strictest in the nation. It’s critical that business owners understand the law and their responsibility. It’s also important for employees to know the same.
Both sides need to understand when a line has been crossed. Too often, employers have an ignorance of the law. It doesn’t make them any less liable for damages if a court determines the action or payment was improper.
This lawsuit was filed in New York, though if it is given class action status, as plaintiff attorneys have requested, it could address violations on behalf of employees of the chain throughout Massachusetts.
According to the complaint, the owners of the restaurant chain “systematically” required a number of employees to work long hours, for which they were not compensated with even minimum wage and they were also denied overtime pay. The workers say this was routinely done to mostly immigrant dishwashers and kitchen workers. Employees say the owners used intimidation and threats to prevent these workers from speaking out to authorities about these violations.
The suit seeks at least $2 million in damages. While only a handful so far have come forward, the plaintiffs estimate there anywhere from 12 to 75 current and former workers who would likely qualify for compensation under the class umbrella.
Plaintiffs said this type of conduct went on year after year, so the payouts – and class size – could be quite sizable. Of the plaintiffs listed, employment times range from 2005 to 2012.
Routinely, these workers say they were ordered to work between 60 and 72 hours in a week-long period. However, they were denied time-and-a-half pay for any hours they worked over 40 – which is considered full-time. Plaintiff lawyers say at least $1 million is owed to his clients, though the award has been doubled to penalize the defendants.
Another aspect of the claim is that employees were forced to record fewer hours on their time sheets than they had actually worked. Often, workers were paid in cash, under the table and less than minimum wage, according to the allegations.
Lawyers say that a lot of the intimidation and threats revolved around race and nationality. Many of the employees were Mexican, and racial slurs were frequently used, workers said, and threats to call immigration were often thrown around.
But issues like this are not limited to low wage earners. The fact is, this reportedly went on for some time, as it often does, because people don’t recognize their rights. For example, many times salaried employees think they aren’t entitled to overtime wages. This is simply not true.
Massachusetts General Law Part 1, Title XXI, Chapter 151, covers most of the state’s wage and overtime compensation laws.
The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us online.
Four Brothers Pizza faces possible class action lawsuit, March 20, 2013, By Daniel Johnson, Register-Star
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Massachusetts Small Business Start-Ups Need Legal Advice, Feb. 20, 2013, Massachusetts Employment Lawyer Blog