SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 24, 2011

Shop to pay staff $80K in OT case

Upper Crust boss accused of violating federal wage laws

SALEM — The owner of an Upper Crust franchise in Salem has agreed to pay 11 employees more than $80,000 in back wages and damages to settle allegations that he violated federal wage laws, the Department of Labor said yesterday.

Buchhalter Ltd. and owner and general manager Michael Buchhalter were found to be violating overtime and record-keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act by improperly classifying kitchen employees as exempt from overtime requirements, the federal agency said in a release.

The workers were paid in "straight time wages" rather than at time and a half for overtime work, and were not paid for all of the hours they worked, Department of Labor spokesman John Chavez said.

Investigators found that the company also failed to maintain accurate records of the hours worked by employees.

Buchhalter has agreed to pay $40,277 in unpaid overtime and back wages to the 11 employees, plus an additional $40,277 in what were described as "liquidated damages," a type of civil penalty, to settle the case short of a lawsuit.

Buchhalter has also signed an agreement that he will fully comply with all requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act in the future.

The company is in the process of paying the workers the money they are owed and has a month to submit proof that the payments have been made, Chavez said.

The violations occurred over a more than two-year period, between January 2009 and this past April.

And they occurred after a separate investigation, which revealed similar violations at 10 Upper Crust restaurants in Boston and other areas, was publicized. That investigation found that 121 employees were not being paid overtime; the owner, Upper Crust LLC, was ordered to pay $341,545 in back wages in that case.

Subsequently, allegations were raised in a lawsuit last year that the owner of those restaurants, Jordan Tobins, was taking back the payments he'd made to workers, allegations he disputes.

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