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Golden Krust CEO sued by employees, less than a week after being found dead

Monday, December 11, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Five days after Lowell Hawthorne was found dead at the Golden Krust Bakery in the Bronx, workers at the Jamaican beef patty manufacturer have filed a federal class-action lawsuit.

According to foreign media reports, the lawsuit, filed Thursday, is the second filed this year against Hawthorne and his company under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA.

The new suit was filed in Manhattan on behalf of two employees at Golden Krust facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and claims they were not paid overtime, had to pay to clean their own uniforms, and were denied tips kept in a tip jar for employees.

"At all relevant times, the defendants had a policy and practice of refusing to pay overtime compensation at the statutory rate of time and one-half... for their hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek," the 25-page complaint said. "At all relevant times, defendants had a policy of time-shaving and refusing to pay plaintiffs.

Attorney for the plaintiffs CK Lee said Friday the lawsuit had been in the works for several months, and "was independent of his death."

"There are general practices and policies for the restaurant that don't comply with law," Lee said, adding "They should comply with it."

According to the lawsuit, plaintiff X was hired as a prep cook for Golden Krust in Brooklyn on March 25, 2016.

X said he worked five days a week and was paid US$10.50 an hour. He later received a raise to US$12 an hour, but only after his hours were cut back to three days per week. He also had 30 minutes of pay deducted for lunch, he said.

X added that he also had to spend US$10 per week to have his company uniform, which was required, washed and cleaned.

Plaintiff Y was hired in 2014 and was a maintenance worker at the company's facility on Park Avenue in the Bronx. Martinez said he was hired at US$8 an hour, and later received a raise to US$8.50 an hour.

Like X, Y claimed he routinely worked additional hours and was not paid for the extra time that he worked.

Hawthorne, 57, built a Caribbean food empire that made the Jamaican beef patty popular throughout the nation. He opened the first Golden Krust store in the Bronx in 1989, featuring his secret recipe for the spicy beef patties.

He expanded the company over the following 28 years, opening about 120 franchises selling the patties and jerk chicken across the country. As his fame grew, Hawthorne wrote a memoir in 2013 titled "The Baker's Son," and planned to build a US$37 million corporate headquarters in Orangetown.

On December 2, Hawthorne was found dead in the Bronx factory from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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