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Now Dean & DeLuca Is Defaulting on Employee Salaries, Laid-Off Workers Say

Recently laid-off employees in California were told they would not receive the final pay they were promised

People standing in a grocery aisle, between shelves of condiments and a glass case full of fish.
A Dean & DeLuca store in SoHo, Manhattan.
Photo: el_cigarrito / Shutterstock.com

Dean & DeLuca, the high-end food emporium known for peddling luxury foods to the masses even before Whole Foods and Eataly rolled onto the scene, can now add “unable to pay workers” to the long list of financial problems plaguing the once-illustrious chain.

The grocery company, which has been closing locations left and right in the past month due to outstanding debts, is apparently withholding final paychecks from its recently laid-off employees in its sole California store, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Former workers of Dean & DeLuca’s outpost in the Napa Valley’s St. Helena allege that they were told on June 27 that they would stay on payroll until August 27 despite the imminent closure of the store. On July 26, however, they received a “revised notification” that they would not receive that pay because the company is “faltering.”

Consequently, the former employees say they have only been paid for the first three days of July, rather than the full 60 days of pay dictated by state law. Per the Chronicle, the laid-off workers are now considering a class-action lawsuit against Dean & DeLuca.

The St. Helena location isn’t the only store that is reportedly leaving its staff unpaid; according to the Chronicle, former employees across the country “said they are dealing with similar situations.” Vendors, too, are apparently owed money by Dean & DeLuca. One St. Helena bakery owner told the Chronicle that her business is owed $30,000. Another vendor, a cookie supplier in Brooklyn, told Eater NY that her business is at risk of shuttering thanks to the $71,000 she is owed by Dean & DeLuca. Still more vendors and small vendors and industrial suppliers shared with the New York Times the outstanding debts — each of them totaling tens of thousands of dollars — owed to them by the luxury grocer.

The fancy food chain, which was founded in 1977, had 42 outposts across the U.S. (and 31 overseas in Asia and the Middle East) in 2014, the year that it was acquired by a Thai luxury real estate firm. But by 2018, as Eater’s Brenna Houck wrote recently, stores began closing “amid reports of broken lease agreements, lawsuits for unpaid rent, and canceled contracts with vendors who had gone unpaid for months.”

Now, Dean & DeLuca — once a playground of the highest lifestyle aspirations, where customers could run their fingers over expensive, novel ingredients and marvel — has closed all but four of its U.S. locations, leaving in its wake not just wistful customers, but more importantly, employees and vendors who formed the foundation of the stores, and are left paying the price for it.

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