New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is hoping to deliver the goods on behalf of local Papa John’s employees.
Last week, Schneiderman filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court against Papa John’s pizza franchisee New Majority Holdings LLC and its owner, Ronald Johnson, for underpaying over 400 delivery workers in direct violation of state labor law.
“Nobody who works 40 hours a week should have to live in poverty,” said Schneiderman. “Like every other business in New York, fast-food employers must follow the law. My office will combat wage theft whenever and wherever we see it in order to protect the rights of hardworking New Yorkers, including pizza delivery workers and others who toil at fast-food restaurants.”
Among the allegations in the lawsuit are accusations that Johnson and company shaved work hours; rounded down pizza delivery workers’ time for each pay period to the nearest whole hour; paid delivery workers as little as $5 an hour; regularly failed to pay proper overtime to delivery workers by basing overtime on the low hourly rate and calculating overtime incorrectly; and required workers to purchase and maintain all bicycle delivery-related equipment that New York City law requires an employer to provide, such as bicycles, helmets, locks, chains and safety gear, which usually costs a worker at least $500 annually.
All of New Majority’s Papa John’s pizza restaurants are or were located in Manhattan at 703 Lenox Ave., 301 Cathedral Parkway, 2119 First Ave., 3477 Broadway and 329 Lenox Ave., which is now closed.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit is the first to come out of a series of ongoing investigations of numerous fast-food employers by the attorney general’s Labor Bureau Office for labor law violations. He has settled with a few of those employers.
In March 2013, Schneiderman reached a settlement with six Domino’s Pizza franchises, which collectively owned 23 restaurants, for unpaid minimum wages, overtime and reimbursement of vehicle expenses for delivery drivers. That same month, he reached a settlement of close to $500,000 for the mostly minimum-wage employees of McDonald’s franchises operated by the Cisneros Group. Last December, the attorney general had 25 workers at a Washington Heights Domino’s franchise reinstated at their jobs.
“When I worked for Papa John’s, I was cheated of my hours and treated as less than human,” said Darrell Roper, 51, a former New Majority Holdings employee, in a statement. “Unfortunately, that’s the reality for so many delivery workers, but I know that today, we’re on our way to getting justice.”
Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fast Food Forward, said that this is the result of the mass organization of fast-food workers fighting for their rights.
“This suit shows why their campaign is so important,” said Fells in a statement. “And it shows that Attorney General Schneiderman is serious about holding fast-food companies accountable for wage theft. Workers who make the minimum wage, or the even lower tipped minimum, cannot afford to have their employers stealing from their paychecks. The suit is a clear signal that unscrupulous employers will not be tolerated. It is the latest reminder that giant fast-food companies like Papa John’s must ensure that its franchise holders abide by the law and treat workers fairly.”