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Owner of Newton Pizza Hut faces labor lawsuits

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:38 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:40 p.m. CDT

The owner of roughly 1,200 Pizza Hut franchises, including the Newton restaurant, was named as a defendant in several collection-action lawsuits filed on March 13, claiming the restaurant chain forced its employees to work “off the clock.”

Some of the allegations made against NPC International Inc. include claims the company did not pay its employees for time spent in meetings and training.

Efforts to contact representatives of the company for this report were unsuccessful.

One plaintiff, a former server Skylar Gunn, claims Pizza Hut violated labor laws when it required him to perform “side work” that took up more than 20 percent of his shift, affecting his overall pay because it caused his hourly pay to be below minimum wage. And the company made him clock-in as a tipped employee to perfrom non-tip work.

Gordon Jackson, one of the attorneys for the plantiffs in the case, said the difference between a collection-action lawsuit and a class-action lawsuit is in a collective-action lawsuit employees have to join-in rather than opt-out.

Currently, they have five employees who have stepped forward. Each one is from a different position in the company, ranging from cooks to delivery drivers to servers.

“I believe it (the lawsuit) will be (covering) 29 states,” he said. “Each employee is in a similar situation (in regards to working off-the-clock), and have decided to join in on the lawsuit.”

Jackson said no one from Iowa has opted to join the lawsuit yet, but that might change as the lawsuit is in its early stages.

“Collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act are unique,” Jackson said. “They allow similarly situated employees to join in the lawsuit if they wish [or] to hire their own attorney and file their own lawsuit, if they so choose.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act protects non-salaried employee who works more than 40 hours per week to be paid time-and-a-half. An employee’s work hours are to include anything job related, including meetings.

He also said employers cannot retaliate against employees for joining the lawsuit.

In 2009, a collection-action lawsuit against NPC International claimed the company deprived delivery drivers of minimum wages by providing insufficient reimbursements for their vehicles and other job related expenses. It was eventually settled out-of-court for $8 million.

Jackson said in his experience, cases like the one in 2009 are usually settled out-of-court.

For more information about the lawsuits visit www.npcofftheclock.com or by calling 1-800-872-8001.

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