March 12, 2015
By Stephanie West and Neal Tepel
New York, NY – Hundreds of Papa John’s employees in Harlem who were cheated out of millions of dollars, can expect some relief now that franchise New Majority Holdings, LLC, and its owner and operator Ronald Johnson, have been ordered to cough up $2,126,166.34 in owed wages, unreimbursed expenses, liquidated damages, and interest.
The action comes after Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman obtained a judgment against New Majority and Johnson for underpaying delivery workers at five Harlem pizza restaurants located at 703 Lenox Ave, 301 Cathedral Parkway, 2119 First Avenue, 3477 Broadway, and 327 Lenox Avenue.
Over the last two months, courts have found that two Papa John’s franchises owe almost $3 million to their workers. But Schneiderman isn’t satisfied with those findings alone, however, and has put the fast food industry on notice, promising his office will be conducting further investigations.
“We will continue to investigate wage and hour violations in the fast food industry,” said the attorney general. "More broadly, franchisors need to step up to the plate. I call on all fast food franchisors, including Papa John's, to take steps necessary to ensure that their workers — the backbone of their business — are treated fairly and paid the wages the law requires. “
According to the Attorney General, New Majority and Johnson violated New York Labor law in the following ways: rounding down workers’ hours worked to the nearest whole hour increment; failing to pay legally-required overtime premiums; paying delivery workers the lower, “tipped” minimum wage; and failing to reimburse employees for costs of purchasing and maintaining bicycles used to make deliveries.
New York County Supreme Court Justice Joan M. Kenney’s judgement mandates that monies be distributed to the underpaid employees of all five Harlem stores. The judge’s order also requires payment of proceeds from any sale of New Majority’s stores to the attorney general, and requires New Majority to comply with the New York Labor Law going forward.
"As we fight to raise the minimum and tipped wage in New York City, it's important to take action against bad actors like New Majority — which has been routinely underpaying hundreds of delivery workers," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
According to New Majority employee Luis Juarez, his bosses was so bad, they tried to fire him after his delivery bike was stolen.
“I worked at the Papa John's that was at 142nd Street and Broadway,” Juarez said. “I had to make pizzas, pack up the food, and organize boxes, all for a salary of $5 per hour. And when my bike was stolen on the street, my employers threatened to fire me from my job if I did not buy another one immediately."
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented that wage theft has become a pervasive problem in New York City, and that more will be done to combat it.
“No worker should worry about their wages, and I look forward to continuing to work with the attorney general as we seek to hold bad actors accountable,” the council member said.