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The Boston Market Restaurant Chain Will Pay $3.75 million to 6,400 Current and Former
 Employees to Settle Lawsuits Alleging California Wage and Hour Violations;
Restaurant Managers to be Re-classified to Nonexempt Status
By Michael Kinsman, The San Diego Union-TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Nov. 15, 2006 - The Boston Market restaurant chain will pay a total of $3.75 million to more than 6,400 current and former employees to settle two class-action lawsuits alleging it violated California wage and hour laws.

The settlement, which was announced yesterday, was approved Oct. 11 by U.S. District Court Judge Barry T. Moskowitz in San Diego.

The settlement involved two separate suits: one concerning hourly employees and the other concerning restaurant managers. Both suits were filed in May 2005 and apply to workers at Boston Market restaurants in California.

Boston Market, which is based in Golden, Colo., operates 116 of its 640 restaurants in California.

In court documents, Boston Market contended that it had done nothing wrong in its treatment of employees and had complied with the state's labor laws.

Boston Market attorney Mark Kemple said the company was pleased with the settlement.

The hourly workers' suit was filed by Jaclyn Rippee, who worked at Boston Market restaurants in El Cajon, Vista and Camarillo. It alleged that 6,315 cooks, food prep workers, cleaning staff and counter workers at Boston Market restaurants often worked through meal and rest periods, did off-the-clock work and were not paid overtime.

Some workers might receive as much as $2,800, according to the settlement.

The second suit was filed by Geraldine Barile, former general manager of restaurants in El Cajon and Vista. It claimed that 122 general managers were incorrectly classified as exempt from overtime pay.

The settlement stipulates that individual general managers could receive up to $6,680 in back pay and that their jobs will be reclassified to nonexempt status on Dec. 31, making them eligible for overtime.

Boston Market also agreed to change its time-keeping and payrolls systems so that when hourly employees do not get meal breaks, employees will automatically be paid for an hour of pay on their next paycheck.

In addition, plaintiffs' attorney Raul Cadena said the restaurant chain will conduct training sessions in English and Spanish to inform employees of their rights to breaks.

"That's very important because many of these employees are Latino, and many of the workers have no idea what their rights are," Cadena said.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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