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Pizza shop wage dispute heads to court

A long-standing dispute over back wages at a Springfield pizza shop has escalated into a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Department of Commerce against Huber Heights-based Wise Guys Pizza & More.

The lawsuit alleges that the pizza chain, when it was operating a pizza shop at 3451 E. National Road in Springfield, violated the state’s minimum-wage laws and owes an estimated $18,552 to 26 former employees in wages, overtime and statutory damages.

The case dates to a complaint that an employee filed anonymously with the commerce department in early 2013, according to Stephen Clegg, chief of the commerce department’s wage and hour bureau. Bureau officials audited the restaurant’s books in August 2013 and issued a finding against Wise Guys the following month. After no payment was made, the matter was forwarded to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which filed the lawsuit in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in February.

Richard Allen, owner of Wise Guys Pizza, denied any wrongdoing in a March 1 response filed in court.

“All employees listed have been paid, and some are family members and/or salaried employees,” Allen wrote. “To our knowledge, all allegations in this complaint are not factual or accurate.”

But because Allen is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit — the limited liability company (LLC) that operates as Wise Guys Pizza is the defendant — Allen’s response was deemed improper last week by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Dennis J. Adkins, who instructed Allen to hire an attorney to prepare a response. Defendants can serve as their own attorney, but only in cases in which they are the named defendants, the judge ruled.

Allen told the Springfield News-Sun in December 2013 that Wise Guys Pizza had no involvement with the employees named in the commerce department complaint. Allen has split with a former business partner, and the Springfield pizza shop is now a Cousin Vinny’s Pizza. Allen could not be reached Monday.

The amount of wages and damages that the commerce department calculates is owed to employees range from $5.06 to $3,986.63, according to court documents.

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