As a restaurant worker, what can you do when your boss doesn’t pay you overtime wages? Are you afraid to complain because of possible retaliation, such as getting fired, demoted or being harassed on the job? Despite these risks, there are laws that protect your rights, even for undocumented workers. In fact, a recent wage violations case set a precedent in New York for not only recovering workers’ overtime pay, but also landing the franchise owner in jail.
Papa John’s Franchise Wage and Hour Dispute
As reported in the New York Post, this is the first time that a franchise owner of a national chain has been sentenced to jail for failing to pay overtime wages.
Abdul Jamil Khokhar and BMY Foods, Inc. co-own and operate nine Papa John’s franchises in the Bronx. A press release by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman alleged that instead of paying one-and-a-half times the hourly pay rate for overtime, Papa John’s paid workers the hourly rate for all hours worked. To hide the wage and hour discrepancy, the owners created fictitious names for employees in their computerized system. They also filed fraudulent New York State tax returns that omitted the cash payments they made to the fictitious employees.
Last July, the Papa John’s franchise owners didn’t fair well in the civil case brought against them for wage and hour violations. Despite reaching a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor, Khokhar and BMY must pay the following penalties:
In addition, the company is subject to independent auditing of the franchise’s actions.
The civil case wasn’t the restaurant owners’ only setback. Subsequent to the civil case, Attorney General Schneiderman prosecuted Abdul Khokhar and BMY Foods on misdemeanor and felony charges. Both defendants pled guilty, and the judge sentenced Khokhar to 60 days in jail.
Stand Up for Your Rights
While every situation is unique, the legal action taken against Khokhar and BMY Foods should become a benchmark case for holding franchise owners personally liable. The NYS Attorney General’s Office showed it is willing to prosecute wage and hour violations in both civil and criminal courts, thereby giving employees a powerful tool in their battle against wage and hour injustices.
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