New Jersey Told Boston Market To Close 27 Locations Over Worker Rights Violations

Despite the upward shift in restaurant wages since the pandemic, it seems wage theft is still alive and well in the industry. On August 14, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) issued a stop-work order to 27 stores, shutting down a vast majority of the franchise's 31 locations in New Jersey. The stop-work order comes after NJDOL investigators found multiple counts of wage theft via late and unpaid wages, violation of minimum wage, and withholding earned sick leave.

According to the NJDOL's press release, the department received over three dozen complaints from Boston Market workers beginning in November 2022. Since the beginning of the investigation, Boston Market has also been officially cited for "hindrance of the investigation" as well as failure to maintain proper records of pay and sick leave. So far, the official tally of damages has come to $607,471 in back pay owed to 314 workers, just over $1.2 million of liquidated damages, and over $2.5 million in administrative fees and penalties against the parent company.

The financial turmoil of Boston Market

Whether Boston Market is able to pay what it owes is another matter entirely: If recent events are anything to go by, the franchise is experiencing serious financial difficulties. In early May of this year, Boston Market was ordered to pay over $600,000 in defaulted rent on multiple locations. Later in the month, the Colorado Department of Revenue forcibly seized Boston Market's Colorado headquarters over approximately $330,000 in unpaid taxes. In July, U.S. Foods — one of Boston Market's main vendors — filed a lawsuit for $11.6 million in unpaid bills.

To make matters worse, it seems Boston Market employees on social media have their own tales of wage theft. While we know of no other government body that has opened wage theft investigations, there are multiple testimonials about late and/or withheld pay. While we cannot verify the claims, one Reddit thread alone has employees from Ohio, Florida, California, and Maryland reporting delayed pay and other issues. Even if the stop-work order in New Jersey is resolved, the franchise may see more complaints in the future.