News Release

US Department of Labor recovers $276K in back wages from North Carolina pizza chain that denied minimum wage, overtime to 63 workers

EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria used customers’ tips to pay employees

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – A North Carolina pizza chain’s pay practices denied full wages to 63 workers at three locations in Clemmons, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. The employer paid as little as $1.19 per hour as a cash wage to workers, which forced them to rely almost entirely on tips for their income, a federal investigation has found.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined that Cugino Forno Clemmons LLC,  Cugino Forno LLC in Greensboro and Cugino Forno WS LLC in Winston-Salem – all operating as EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria – also collected customer tips left for some workers and used them to pay other employees’ wages, leading to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage provisions. They also found the employer failed to pay the required overtime rate when applicable.

The division’s investigation led the recovery of $276,048 in back wages for the affected workers.

“Restaurant employees work hard, often for low-wages, and many depend on the tips they receive from customers for good service to makes ends meet,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Employers are obligated to pay their workers all their legally earned wages. Those who do not respect their workers’ rights will likely struggle to retain and recruit the people they need to remain competitive, as workers look for opportunities with employers that do.”

In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $34.7 million for more than 29,000 workers in the food service industry. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports near record numbers of job openings and workers in the accommodations and food services industry quitting their jobs

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. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of their immigration status – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.

Read this news release En Español.

Wage and Hour Division
June 15, 2022
Release Number
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
Phone Number
Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
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