Food Trends

Coney Island Wahlburgers franchisee sued by ex-workers over alleged wage theft

Mark Wahlberg,  Wahlburgers executive chef Paul Wahlberg with former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi showcase some of the chain's burgers.

Mark Wahlberg, Wahlburgers executive chef Paul Wahlberg with former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi showcase some of the chain's burgers.  (Wahlburgers)

Five former Wahlburgers employees filed a class-action lawsuit in New York federal court Thursday, claiming the restaurant chain founded by actors Mark and Donnie Walberg and their brother, Chef Paul Walberg, failed to pay them the proper minimum wage and routinely pocketed the tips that were supposed to go to the waitstaff.

The ex-employees, who worked at the Wahlburgers franchise in Coney Island, Brooklyn, said they also didn’t receive a $3,000 tip that was left for them by cast of “Blue Bloods,” the TV series starring Donnie Wahlberg, at the end of a private party.

Since the Coney Island franchise, the first Wahlburgers in New York, opened last September, it has been “rampant with wage theft and violations of federal and state labor law,” the lawsuit states.

The ex-employees claim they and other workers were paid “for significantly fewer hours than they actually worked”; that they didn’t receive time-and-a-half for overtime; and that the restaurant imposed “an unlawful tip pool upon the tipped employees that required them to pay a share of their gratuities to non-tipped kitchen employees,” according to a report on Yahoo! TV.

The lawsuit also claims management regularly shaved “approximately five to ten hours of compensable time” a week from the employees through actions such as punching them out for meal times that they didn’t take, and by routinely telling them to start work without punching in.

A Wahlburgers spokesperson, in a statement to TheWrap, said the company plans to “bring this matter to a resolution.”

“Wahlburgers is all about family, and treating people fairly and with respect is at the heart of our brand,” the company said in a statement. “Since this situation came to light today, we’ve been working with [Wahlburgers franchisee] Coney Burgers to better understand the circumstances and help bring this matter to resolution.”

Wahlburgers has seen rapid expansion in the five years since its launch outside of Boston in 2011. The chain currently has multiple locations in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada, and it recently announced plans to expand into California, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina.

It also is the focus of an A&E reality show that has aired 43 episodes since it debuted in 2014.

Will a future installment focus on the Coney Island franchise drama? Stay tuned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.