The New Jersey Department of Labor on Tuesday ordered the closure of 27 Boston Market restaurants in response to finding several instances of workers' rights violations, including more than $600,000 owed in back wages.
Some examples of misdeeds include: unpaid/late payment of wages, hindrance of the investigation, failure to pay minimum wage, records violations, failure to pay earned sick leave, and failure to maintain records for earned sick leave. Investigators found $607,471 in back wages owed to 314 workers and roughly $1.2 million in other damages. The chain was also hit with more than $731,700 in administrative penalties.
The department said the investigation began when it received a complaint in November 2022 from a Boston Market worker. That was followed by almost three dozen more from several other restaurants across New Jersey.
“With restaurants across the country, Boston Market needs to set a better example for fair treatment of its workers,” Joseph Petrecca, assistant commissioner of NJDOL’s Division of Wage and Hour and Contract Compliance, said in a statement. “Thanks to the Murphy Administration, NJDOL has the tools to carry out large-scale enforcement efforts within the state so we can work with employers to stop worker exploitation, create sustainable change, and prevent future violations.”
Boston Market requested a hearing to appeal New Jersey's stop-work order. In the meantime, New Jersey can assess a penalty of $5,000 per day against if stores are conducting business in violation of the order. It may be lifted if everything has been paid and related issues have been resolved.
Boston Market is owned by the Rohan Group of Companies, led by Jay Pandya. The chain was acquired in April 2020 from private equity firm Sun Capital Partners.
After being founded in 1985, the chicken chain raced to roughly 1,200 locations over the next 12 years, but it was a story of one brand growing too fast. Boston Market filed bankruptcy in 1998 because of decreasing unit level economics and large amounts of debt. Two years later, the company was acquired by McDonald's. The burger giant held on to Boston Market until 2007 when it sold the restaurant to Sun Capital.
After closing hundreds of units in the past several years, Boston Market is now down to roughly 300 locations nationwide. Complaints from management, employees, and vendors have come from all over the country. The chain was recently sued by US Foods, which alleged that the brand owes more than $11 million.