US Department of Labor serves up $188K in back wages, damages for 104 workers at three Chicago pizzerias as employer tries to defy investigators
CHICAGO – While Sarpino’s Pizzeria locations in Chicago promise quick delivery when customers call, the business’ operator was much less responsive when U.S. Department of Labor investigators chose to review the employer’s pay practices.
In fact, investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division needed a subpoena to obtain employees’ pay records and it soon became clear why the owner refused to cooperate.
The division ultimately determined the employer owed a total of $188,628 – representing $94,314 in overtime back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages – to 104 employees at three Sarpinos’ locations in Chicago owned by Julius Jokimas.
Investigators found the three Sarpinos’ locations misclassified delivery drivers as independent contractors and, by doing so, failed to pay them overtime at time-and-one-half their average hourly wage when they worked more than 40 hours per week. The pizzerias also shortchanged some managers and cooks by denying them overtime wages they had earned. In addition, investigators found the employer failed to maintain accurate payroll records.
As a result of its investigations, the division recovered back wages as follows:
Sarpinos’ South Loop, S. Archer Avenue, owed 27 workers, $43,890 in back wages
Sarpinos’ W. Division Street, owed 33 workers, $23,791 in back wages
Sarpinos’ Loop, W. Lake Street, owed 44 workers, $26,633
“While the employer in this case may have tried to stymie an investigation, they learned that failing to comply with Wage and Hour investigators is not an option,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Thomas Gauza in Chicago. “The operator of these Sarpinos’ locations learned – on the wrong end of a subpoena – that the U.S. Department of Labor will use the tools at its disposal to protect the workers’ rights and to ensure they are being paid as the law requires.”
“Misclassification of workers as independent contractors is a common violation,” Gauza added. “It denies wages for workers who earned overtime, cheats taxpayers out of payroll taxes, and allows the employer to undercut competitors who operate in compliance with the law.”
In addition to the back wages recovered, the division assessed the operator of the three Sarpino’s Pizzerias $75,504 in penalties for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, for the second time in six years. The division found similar FLSA violations in 2015.
Founded in British Columbia in 2001, Sarpino’s is a restaurant chain specializing in pizza, with U.S. operations based in Lincolnshire, Illinois. There are 21 Sarpino’s locations in the metro-Chicago area. In addition, Sarpinos’ locations also operate in other major metro areas including Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Kansas City, Miami, Houston, Austin and Atlanta.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 958,000 food and accommodation services workers left their positions in December 2021. BLS also projects about 41,400 openings for food service managers each year, on average, from 2020 to 2030.
“As more workers choose to leave the food service industry jobs, employers whose pay practices comply with the law have the advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining workers. Those who shortchange workers will likely find themselves without the people they need to operate their businesses,” Gauza added.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.