$80,554 in Back Wages to be Paid to Employees of Pizzeria for Overtime Pay and Record-Keeping Violations

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Buchhalter Ltd., doing business as The Upper Crust Pizzeria, has agreed to pay a total of $80,554 in back wages and liquidated damages to 11 employees following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division that disclosed violations of the overtime pay and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company is located at 118 Washington St. in Salem, and is a franchisee of The Upper Crust LLC.

“The Labor Department will not allow employers like The Upper Crust Pizzeria to violate the law and deprive vulnerable, low-wage restaurant workers of their rightful wages,” said Carlos Matos, assistant director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Boston District Office, which investigated the case. “Requiring violators to pay liquidated damages in addition to the back wages owed ensures accountability under the law and also helps level the playing field for those employers who play by the rules and pay their workers fair wages.”

The investigation determined that the company had improperly classified nonexempt kitchen employees as exempt from FLSA overtime pay provisions and paid these workers “straight time” wages, rather than time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 in a week. The company also failed to maintain accurate records of the hours worked by its employees.

When investigators informed the owner and general manager, Michael Buchhalter, of the violations uncovered during the investigation, he signed an agreement to fully comply with all requirements of the FLSA in the future, as well as to pay 11 of his employees back wages totaling $40,277 plus an equal amount in liquidated damages.

A 2009 investigation of the franchisor, The Upper Crust LLC, revealed back wages of $341,545.53 were due to 121 employees in 10 stores for the period of April 29, 2007, through April 19, 2009. The employer had paid straight time wages for overtime hours to its delivery drivers and hourly employees such as cooks, counter help and managers, and also failed to compute the proper overtime rate for employees who received two different hourly rates of pay.

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