The New Jersey Department of Labor on Tuesday ordered 27 Boston Market locations in the state to close and fined the company nearly $2.6 million in back wages, liquidated damages and administrative damages.
The closure stemmed from a complaint the department’s Division of Wage and Hour and Contract Compliance received in November from a worker in Hamilton, N.J. Since then, nearly three dozen additional complaints have come into the state naming several locations.
The state found citations for unpaid or late payments, hindrance of the investigation, failure to pay minimum wage, records violations, failure to pay sick leave or to maintain records.
It is only the latest in a series of major issues involving the fast-casual chain, which was acquired in 2020 by the Rohan Group of Companies. The chain is facing numerous lawsuits from vendors and landlords over unpaid wages, including a $12 million lawsuit from distributor US Foods. There are at least two lawsuits over unpaid wages, one in Massachusetts and another in Arizona.
The company has missed payments to employees while general managers shop around at places like Walmart or Costco for food, such as instant mashed potatoes, using cash from the store, according to several sources.
“With restaurants across the country, Boston Market needs to set a better example for fair treatment of its workers,” Joseph Petrecca, assistant commissioner of the department’s Division of Wage and Hour Contract Compliance, said in a statement.
Investigators have found $607,471 owed in back wages to 314 workers, as well as $1.2 million in liquidated damages. Boston Market was also assessed $182,241.30 in administrative fees and another $549,500 in administrative damages.
The department said that it initiates stop-work orders to stop work “performed in a manner that exploits workers or is otherwise noncompliant with state laws and regulations.” Boston Market has requested a hearing on the stop-work order.
The department is monitoring locations where the orders have been issued, and Boston Market faces potential civil penalties of $5,000 per day if it conducts business in violation of the order. Boston Market can reopen the locations when penalties and wages are paid.
Boston Market, which at one point had 1,200 restaurants across the country, finished 2022 with 300 locations. At least two dozen restaurants have closed this year already. The 26 New Jersey restaurants—assuming none of them were already closed when the order was put in place—would double that amount.
Jay Pandya, the owner of Boston Market, has yet to respond to a request for comment.
For a list of the New Jersey Boston Market locations subject to the shutdown order, click here.
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