Upper Crust Pizzeria

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Upper Crust Pizzeria
Type Privately held company
Industry Restaurants
Founded 2001
Founders Jordan Tobins
Headquarters Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Number of locations 7 (as of 2013; down from 21 in 2011)[1]
Area served Eastern United States
Products Pizza
Website www.theuppercrustpizzeria.com

Upper Crust Pizzeria is a Boston, Massachusetts based chain of pizzeria restaurants. The chain went bankrupt following a finding by the U.S. Department of Labor that it had engaged in wage theft (not paying workers their legally required wages).[2]

Founded by Jordan Tobins,[3] the first location opened in Beacon Hill in 2001.[4][5] It won local accolades such as "Best Gourmet Pizza" (Boston magazine) and "Boston's Best Pizza" (The Improper Bostonian).[6] By May 2009, the chain had grown to 14 locations,[3] and 17 by July 2010.[7] In April 2011 the Upper Crust opened its 21st location, and its first outside of New England, in Washington, D.C. and announced plans to open 10 additional restaurants in the DC area over the next five years.[1]

The chain subsequently declared bankruptcy in 2012[8] amid allegations that Tobins violated labor laws and raided the company's cash for his own expenses, a claim he has denied.[9]

Department of Labor findings and subsequent lawsuits and investigations[edit]

A United States Department of Labor investigation of the company's pay practices from April 2007 through April 2009 revealed that Upper Crust’s hourly workers were paid straight time even after they exceeded 40 hours in a week. The company was ordered to pay more than US$341,000 in back wages to about 121 workers for uncompensated overtime.[7] The Labor Department began a new investigation of the company in 2010.[10]

On July 16, 2010, a lawsuit was filed against the company by two former employees, claiming that the Upper Crust had forced employees to give back thousands of these dollars.[7] The lawsuit claims that Upper Crust made illegal deductions from the plaintiff's wages, paid below the legal minimum wage, and retaliated against those who complained.[7] Tobins described the plaintiffs as "disgruntled ex-employees... trying to figure out a way to extort money from our business",[7] but in 2012 the company's former chief financial officer swore an affidavit saying that the Upper Crust had devised a scheme to wrest the money back which included the cashing of forged checks.[11]

On December 20, 2010 a former operations manager at Upper Crust filed a lawsuit that accuses the Boston pizza chain of retaliating against him after he reported the company to the US Department of Labor for allegedly violating wage and hour laws.[10]

In 2011, The Boston Globe reported that several former employees have claimed that United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is investigating the company's alleged hiring of illegal immigrants and other labor violations.[12][13] Labor and student groups including Massachusetts Jobs with Justice have organized boycotts and protest over the company's labor practices.[13][14] The company has characterized the boycotts as misguided.[14]

Ownership group lawsuit[edit]

A picture of the shuttered Upper Crust Pizzeria restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts

In 2012, Upper Crust co-owners Joshua Huggard and Brendan Higgins sued Tobins, alleging that he had used more than $750,000 in company money for personal expenses, such as the purchase of a small airplane. Tobins was placed on leave from the company.[15][16]

Tobins, Huggard and Higgins settled their lawsuit in August 2012.[17] Under the terms of the settlement, Tobins paid Huggard and Higgins $250,000 and assumed partial liability for the class action lawsuit by former Upper Crust employees, the Department of Labor investigation, and a lawsuit by Upper Crust's construction firm.[17] In exchange, Tobins received the rights to the Upper Crust name.[17] Finally, Huggard and Higgins took ownership of the Upper Crust restaurants in Back Bay, Fenway, Harvard Square, Hingham, Lexington, State Street, South End, Summer Street, Waltham, Washington DC, Watertown, and Wellesley.[17]

Huggard's and Higgin's company filed for bankruptcy in late 2012, shuttering all of its locations.

Reorganization in bankruptcy and current operations[edit]

UC Acquisitions, a private equity firm with ties to Upper Crust founder Jordan Tobins, purchased some locations from the bankruptcy estate of Huggard's and Higgin's firm.[18] The location in Harvard Square was subsequently purchased by an attorney who had represented the chain's employees in a lawsuit, to be re-opened as a partly employee-owned pizzeria.[8] Since UC Acquisitions and Tobins took control of Upper Crust, many franchisees have elected to cut ties with the company.[19] As of April 2013, Tobins or UC Acquisitions control the Upper Crust name and the locations in Beacon Hill, Brookline, Lexington, South End, Watertown, and Wellesley.[19] Also, as of April 2013, Massachusetts has more than $100,000 in tax liens outstanding against Jordan Tobins and his Boston condo for unpaid meal taxes.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Zuckerman, Catherine (May 11, 2011). "The Upper Crust Pizzeria". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 31, 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.boston.com/business/news/2012/11/07/upper-crust-pizza-chain-owes-workers-federal-labor-agency-says/acPJll7QPberqAZawKaQhI/story.html
  3. ^ a b The Pie Guy, The Boston Globe, May 17, 2009
  4. ^ Kuehnlenz, Sri. The Upper Crust is Above the Competition, The Brandeis Hoot, August 31, 2007
  5. ^ Welch's `Winning' play helps Upper Crust rise, Boston Herald, February 2, 2006
  6. ^ Crust above the rest, The Daily News Tribune, July 13, 2007
  7. ^ a b c d e Abelson, Jenn (July 17, 2010). "Upper Crust sued over pay dispute". The Boston Globe. 
  8. ^ a b [1] "The Harvard Crimson", January 23, 2013
  9. ^ [2], "The Boston Globe", June 13, 2012
  10. ^ a b Abelson, Jenn (December 20, 2010). "Former Upper Crust manager alleges retaliation". The Boston Globe. 
  11. ^ Jenn Abelson (June 19, 2012). "Upper Crust accused of scheming on pay". Boston Globe. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  12. ^ Jenn Abelson (March 15, 2011). "Upper Crust faces US immigration investigation". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "ICE investigating Upper Crust". UPI. March 15, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Jenn Abelson (March 15, 2011). "Upper Crust faces US immigration investigation". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 12, 2012. [dead link]
  15. ^ Abelson, Jenn (June 19, 2012). "Upper Crust accused of scheming on pay". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 16, 2012. 
  16. ^ Abelson, Jenn (13 June 2012). "Deep split at Upper Crust; Co-owners' lawsuits allege misuse of funds". Boston Globe. 
  17. ^ a b c d "Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release url=http://www.jagersmith.com/downloads/pdf/pleadings/upper_crust/doc228.pdf". August 19, 2012. 
  18. ^ The Boston Globe. December 19, 2012 http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/other/2012/12/19/upper-crust-pizza-chain-sliced-auction-ousted-founder-wins-leases-for-some-locations/URNNDi7lQwwAIr1gTbexDJ/story.html |url= missing title (help). Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b [3]
  20. ^ [4]

External links[edit]