The owner of a former Springfield pizza business owes its employees more than $18,000 in underpaid wages and damages after failing to pay its workers minimum wage, according to state agencies.
The Ohio Department of Commerce and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against A&R Pizzeria LLC and WiseGuys Pizza & More this month, saying an investigation by the state determined that the the pizza company owed 26 of its workers $18,552.15 after failing to pay them minimum wage as required by law.
The minimum wage in Ohio is currently $7.85. Next year, Ohio’s minimum wage will increase 10 cents to $7.95.
The state notified WiseGuys Pizza and A&R Pizzeria LLC of its findings in a letter dated Sept. 19 and ordered the owner of the business to forward checks for each of the employees or former employees to the Department of Commerce, according to court documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.
The letter states that 30 days after the date of the letter any unpaid wages would be forwarded to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for collection, according to court documents.
Assistant Attorney General Aaron Johnston said the investigation began after one of the employees listed in the complaint contacted the state in January.
Johnston said the investigation concerns payments to the workers from April to June of this year.
He said state officials has tried to reach the owner of the business multiple times but have only received a limited response and have not received any response to the lawsuit filed earlier this month.
Johnston said under Ohio law the workers are entitled to “two times the underpayment,” and officials want to collect dollar for dollar in money the employees are owed for overtime.
WiseGuys Pizza, formerly of 3451 E. National Road, was owned by Rick Allen.
Allen took over a Cousin Vinny’s Pizza at that location in September 2012. But after a “partner dispute,” Cousin Vinny’s owner Eugene Kettering reclaimed the business a few months later.
Allen, who still owns WiseGuys in Huber Heights, could not be reached for comment for this story.
Kettering told the Springfield News-Sun last year that customer dissatisfaction and confusion caused Cousin Vinny’s to reclaim both the Springfield and Fairborn locations.
“We apologize for that,” Kettering told the News-Sun then. “We had a lot of customers asking ‘when are we coming back, when are we coming back?’ We figured it was a good strategic business move to take back over the stores.”
Kettering could not be reached for comment on this story.
A manager at Cousin Vinny’s in Huber Heights said Cousin Vinny’s does not have a connection to the business practices at WiseGuys.
Johnston said if the owner of WiseGuys does not respond to the lawsuit, the state will seek a default judgment.
He said state’s objective is not to shut down the business, but help employees get the wages they earned.