Suit alleges Upper Crust took back workers’ pay

Boston Globe | July, 2010

Two former cooks at Upper Crust pizza today filed a lawsuit that accuses the popular chain of taking back thousands of dollars in overtime payments that were ordered by the US Department of Labor following an investigation into the company’s compensation practices.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, comes nearly a year after Upper Crust paid more than $341,000 in back wages to about 121 workers for uncompensated overtime, following a US Department of Labor investigation, according to John Chavez , a spokesman for the agency. The chain has 17 restaurants in the Boston area.

Valdeir Pereira Pinto, of Allston, and Cleverson Batista, of Somerville, contend Upper Crust management, after making the lump restitution payments for overtime, told employees they would have to pay it back if they wanted to keep their jobs. Management then began deducting hundreds of dollars from their weekly checks, according to a copy of the suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court. Pinto and Batista, both immigrants from Brazil, said in court papers that they were fired this spring weeks after the company recovered its money.

“It’s not fair that the guys take my money. I work for this money,” Batista, who worked at restaurants in Brookline and Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, said in an interview.

Josh Huggard, one of Upper Crust’s owners, said the chain “learned from its mistakes in the past” regarding the Department of Labor investigation into its overtime payment practices. But Huggard said the company “never ever said [employees] couldn’t work for us or that they had to pay us back.” Huggard said Pinto, who worked at Upper Crust on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, was fired because “he was lazy. He was an awful worker.”
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