Wage Theft by Wahlburgers Chain Alleged in Employment Lawsuit

A wage theft lawsuit filed by former employees of Wahlburgers, a restaurant chain opened by actor Mark Wahlberg and two of his brothers, alleges the chain illegally withheld wages and tips. restaurant1

The restaurant chain was founded by the actor and his brothers, Donnie and Paul, five years ago and is at the center of an A&E reality television series. Paul, who is a chef, oversees day-to-day operations at the restaurant.

A class action lawsuit asserts that management at the New York Coney Island branch, which opened its doors last fall, was the site of “rampant wage theft and violations of federal and state employment laws.” Specifically, it is alleged the restaurant paid workers for fewer hours than they worked. Also, when they worked overtime, they were not paid time-and-a-half, as required by federal law. Finally, the restaurant is accused of unlawfully forcing servers to pool their tips to share with non-tipped staffers in the kitchen. The “back of the house” staff were paid regular wages, while “front of the house” servers received the minimum wages allowable for tipped workers (considerably less), without meeting the strict criteria that would enable an employer to apply that tip credit. The workers also assert that following a private event held for the cast of Blue Bloods, starring Donnie Wahlberg, the restaurant wrongly withheld the $3,000 tip left by the cast. 

The lawsuit does not name the Wahlberg brothers specifically as defendants, but instead calls out the franchise owner and two franchise companies.

A statement was released by Wahlburgers, saying fair, respectful treatment of workers is central to their brand and they have scheduled a series of meetings with the franchise owner and franchise companies to better understand what’s happening and how best to resolve the dispute.

The wage and hour lawsuit alleges the franchise routinely “shaved compensable time” not just from servers, but from all non-exempt staffers, including bartenders, bussers, servers and other kitchen staffers. In many instances, it’s alleged, the restaurant paid these workers for significantly fewer hours than they actually worked. In some cases, paid tipped employees were given a flat weekly salary of $300 – regardless of how many hours they actually worked, including when they worked over 40 hours. In many cases, five to 10 hours would be taken off their weekly pay.

The Blue Bloods tip incident wasn’t even the only one, workers claim. The workers say the restaurant regularly kept tips that were left by customers for workers. If a customer walked out without paying, the company would unlawfully deduct the amount from the server’s paycheck. There was also no regular record of complete wage statements given to workers. The employees said when they complained or brought these issues to the attention of management, nothing changed.

Plaintiffs say they are seeking the wages and tips of which they were deprived, as well as punitive damages from their former employer.

In California, wage and hour violations are overseen by the California Department of Industrial Relations. This is a good place to start researching wage and hour theft laws. If you believe you have been a victim of wage and hour theft by your employer, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer in Costa Mesa.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Mark Wahlberg’s burger chain, Wahlburgers, sued for alleged wage theft, Aug. 23, 2016, By Josh Hafner, USA Today

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