Wahlburgers, the reality show-famous burger chain run by actor Mark Wahlberg and his family, is being accused of stiffing its employees. A class-action lawsuit filed by five employees says a Coney Island franchise has committed wage theft and violated numerous state and federal labor laws, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The lawsuit filed yesterday in New York alleges that Wahlburgers' Coney Island franchise, which opened in September 2015, "maintained a pattern and practice of regularly shaving compensable time from the weekly hours of all its non-exempt employees, including servers, bartenders, bussers and kitchen staff, and paying them significantly fewer hours than they actually worked."
The suit claims a number of tipped employees were paid a flat salary of $300 a week and were not compensated for overtime, and that Wahlburgers regularly kept employees' tips; staff were also not paid for attending mandatory meetings.
The lawsuit names Wahlburgers Franchising LLC and the owners of the Coney Island franchise as defendants. It also claims that members of the Wahlberg family were aware of the issues: The plaintiffs say they complained directly to Paul Wahlberg, the eldest of the three Wahlberg brothers that runs the company's day-to-day operations, but nothing was done; additionally, one of the plaintiffs allegedly spoke to Donnie Wahlberg following a company party last month, telling him there was "a lot going on" at the Coney Island store he should know about, to which Donnie allegedly replied, "I know."
Reached for comment, a Wahlburgers spokesperson says, "Wahlburgers is all about family. Treating people fairly and with respect is at the heart of our brand. Since this situation came to light yesterday, we’ve been working with Coney Burgers to better understand the circumstances."
The Boston-based chain, which is now in its sixth season of its A&E reality show, is on a major expansion tear: Late last year the company announced plans for 100 to 150 new stores over the next five years, including 20 in the Middle East; earlier this year, it revealed it would open 30 more stores in a number of U.S. cities including Charleston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Detroit.
Check out the lawsuit, as filed in U.S. district court for Eastern New York yesterday, below:
• All Wahlburgers Coverage [E]