AG Tong Demands $6.1 Million from CT Service Plaza Operator Over Unpaid Wages

Attorney General William Tong on Friday announced he had sued Connecticut service plaza operator Project Service, LLC on behalf of the Connecticut Dept of Labor seeking to recover $2.7 million in unpaid wages owed to food service employees at the Connecticut’s 23 service plazas.

The complaint further seeks to collect an additional $2.7 million in damages as well as $722,000 in civil penalties previously assessed but never paid.

Since 2009, Project Service has held a contract with the state Department of Transportation to provide food service to the 23 state-owned service plazas along I-95, Route 15, and I-395. Project Service in turn contracts with a number of different food service operators. Project Service’s agreement with the state requires them to comply with standard wage laws.

Under state statute, the Labor Commissioner establishes a standard wage rate for each classification of employee, including minimum hourly wages plus a 30% surcharge to cover fringe benefits such as the cost of healthcare, leave time or retirement.

In August 2019, the Dept of Labor received a complaint regarding non-payment of wages at the Darien-based Taco Bell.

That complaint triggered an investigation that uncovered a total of $2.7 million in unpaid wages from August 29, 2017 through to September 20, 2019. 

The investigation found 2,068 impacted workers at a Taco Bell, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, and 17 Subway restaurants. The investigation found that many workers, but not all, appeared to have been paid the minimum hourly wage, they were not compensated for mandatory fringe benefits.

The Department of Labor informed Project Service that standard wages must be paid and provided an itemization of additional wages due to each impacted employee. Despite that notice, Project Service to date has refused to pay workers what they are owed, and some subcontractors continue to deny workers the full compensation they are due.

The Connecticut Department of Labor continues to receive complaints and is actively investigating additional potential instances of wage theft at Connecticut service plazas.

“These workers did their job, and they deserve to be paid their full compensation. Project Service was put on notice years ago that their subcontractors were underpaying workers in violation of state law. They have continuously refused to make their workers whole despite repeated warnings and demands. We are left with no choice but today’s legal action to compel Project Service to repay $2.7 million in unpaid back wages, as well as $2.7 million in additional penalties and damages to ensure this egregious wage theft never occurs again,” said Attorney General Tong in a release.

Connecticut Dept of Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo said CT Dept of Labor undertook a major investigation into labor practices at these locations and found workplace violations that were harming workers, denying wages, and reducing worker benefits.

Assistant Attorneys General Krista O’Brien, Maria Rodriguez and Sarah Bold, and Deputy Associate Attorney General Matthew Larock, Chief of the Employment Rights section are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.