NY Salad Chain Accused Of Violating Labor Laws

By Braden Campbell Law360, New York (January 7, 2016, 2:28 PM ET)

Law360, New York (January 7, 2016, 2:28 PM ET) — Three employees of a New York fast casual salad chain filed a proposed class action suit in federal court there on Wednesday, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law as part of a scheme to duck thousands of dollars in wages over several years.
The employees at four Just Salad locations in New York City are seeking thousands of dollars in damages from the company as recourse for a litany of alleged labor abuses, including the manipulation of records to avoid paying overtime, failure to pay minimum wage and pocketing of cash from employee tip pools.

“As a result of the failure to pay wages free and clear, kickbacks and illegal deductions, defendants have willfully and intentionally committed widespread violations of the FLSA and NYLL,” the filing reads.

The plaintiffs are three men, classified as deliverymen despite claims that they spend much of their days performing other tasks including store maintenance and prep work, who say that they have been paid less than minimum wage for years for regular schedules that often include dozens more hours than the standard 40-hour work week.

Among the allegations included in the 41-page complaint is lead plaintiff Jose Alvino Rea Rea’s charge that the company split his hours over two names at three different stores to avoid paying overtime, while still shortchanging him for a week that usually comprised more than 90 hours over seven days.

“Plaintiff was paid roughly 40 hours per week under the name of Carlos Rea and 20 hours per week under the name of Alvino Rea from Just Salad 600 Third LLC and roughly 20 hours a week from Just Salad GP LLC,” the complaint reads.

The plaintiffs also allege that they were not compensated for the purchase and maintenance of bicycles used for deliveries, were classified as tipped employees and thus paid significantly less than minimum wage despite performing nontipped tasks for more than 20 percent of the workday and shared a pool of tips diluted by managers taking money regularly, among other charges.

The plaintiffs propose to represent a class of all nonexempt personnel employed by Just Salad in the six years before the case was filed on Jan. 6. They seek damages including unpaid regular and overtime plus penalties and up to $5,000 per plaintiff for failure to provide pay stubs and proper notice of wages.

Just Salad was started in 2006 by friends and current partners Nick Kenner, Rob Crespi and Laura Pensiero in New York, and now boasts 20 locations in the city, and others in Chicago, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. Kenner, Crespi and Pensiero are all named in the suit.

The new suit comes months after the company was slapped with a $5 million personal injury claim in New York Supreme Court by a woman claiming that she contracted the potentially deadly bacteria Listeria from one of its New York City locations. Just Salad has moved to dismiss the case, which remains pending.

Representatives for Just Salad and the plaintiffs did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday.

The plaintiffs are represented by John Troy of Troy Law PLLC.

Counsel information for the defendants was not immediately available on Thursday.

The case is Alvino Rea Rea et al. vs. Just Salad 600 Third LLC et al., case number 1:15-cv-10183, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

–Editing by Stephen Berg.