NEW YORK — A New York Papa John’s franchisee has been ordered to pay nearly $800,000 for failing to pay proper wages and overtime pay to its employees. The order came from a New York state judge just a few months after the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against the franchisee and its owners. The franchisee, Emstar Pizza Inc., and its owners Emmanuel and Uchenna Onuaguluchi, operate seven locations in New York and allegedly took numerous actions over the last six years in an effort to avoid paying employees all of the hours they worked. As part of the lawsuit, the New York attorney general included a request to prevent the franchisee from selling any of its locations prior to the ruling and the payment of the awarded back wages.
The Pizza Overtime Claim
The franchisee allegedly shaved employees’ hours by rounding down to the nearest hour, underreported the employees’ hours, misclassified employees, and failed to pay overtime wages when the employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. The attorney general’s claims against the company also included allegations that the franchisee would give employees managerial sounding job titles to avoid paying overtime wages. Unless an employee is legitimately exempt from overtime wages, if an employee works more than 40 hours a week, or more than 8 hours in shift, under New York state labor laws the employee is entitled to overtime pay for overtime work.
The attorney general decided not to include Papa John’s International Inc., as a joint employer, into the lawsuit, partly based on a recent National Labor Relations Board ruling which declined to consider McDonald’s as a joint employer in wage claims against a McDonald’s franchisee. Also, Papa John’s International claims not to control the employment practices of its franchisees, which generally means that they should not be held responsible for the violations of the individual franchisees.
A small proportion of overtime lawsuits will be brought by state or federal attorneys general. The majority of overtime claims will either be filed by individuals, as singular lawsuits or potential class actions, or will be settled before they reach the courts. In order for an overtime claim to make it to court, a complaint must be made with a state or federal department of labor. If the department determines there is sufficient information to begin an investigation of the complaint, the department will begin the initial investigation, which is typically followed by mediation between the parties. If mediation fails, the department will continue its investigation and determine whether it will bring a lawsuit on behalf of the complainant or to provide a Right to Sue notice. With that notice, the complainant can file a lawsuit themselves.
If you have questions or believe you may have an overtime claim, our experienced team of overtime pay lawyers can be reached at (855) 754-2795 or through our Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form. If we accept your case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise. This means there are no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement.