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Jimmy John's Accused Of 'Systematic Wage Theft'

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Jimmy John's, the "freaky fast" sandwich staple of America's college towns, is being sued by two former employees for what they describe as "systematic wage theft" at the fast food chain.

In their lawsuit filed Friday in federal court, Karolis Kubelskas and Emily Brunner claim that they were forced to regularly work off the clock because of unreasonably low payroll budgets provided to individual Jimmy John's stores, leading to minimum wage and overtime violations.

Jimmy John's has "intentionally and repeatedly misrepresented the true time worked by their hourly employees" in order to keep costs down and dodge overtime laws, the complaint alleges. The lawsuit is a proposed class action, with Kubelskas and Brunner arguing that such pay practices come from "corporate set policies" and would apply to other workers.

Jimmy John's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Kubelskas and Brunner, Jimmy John's workers aren't given enough time to complete all their closing duties at the end of the day, at which point managers clock them out regardless of whether or not they continue to work. The practice is exacerbated, they claim, by a company policy that bases managers' bonuses largely on whether or not they hit their targets on labor costs.

The system, they say, "has the practical effect of creating widespread wage theft."

Brunner, who's represented by the Chicago firm Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil, originally filed suit against the company in July, but she filed an additional, joint complaint with Kubelskas last week. Both suits name JS Fort Group, which they describe as a franchisee, as a defendant alongside Jimmy John's Enterprises.

Founded in Illinois in 1983, Jimmy John's has built its foundation on the "irreverent attitude and dirt-cheap prices" championed by its founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, according to the company's website. The sandwich chain now has more than 1,900 locations throughout the U.S., and it was often highlighted as an entrepreneurial success story by failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the 2012 campaign trail.

Of Jimmy John's employees, the company's site says, "They don't mind doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Their hustle is part of how they live their daily lives, and they enjoy the fruits of a hard-earned entrepreneurial lifestyle."

The proposed class action isn't the first time Jimmy John's has been the target of a lawsuit from workers. Last November, 300 delivery drivers sued a major Jimmy John's franchise operator, claiming that the auto expenses they were forced to bear pushed their earnings below the minimum wage.

In 2011, a group of 10 Jimmy John's locations became the target of a heated labor organizing campaign by the Industrial Workers of the World, who'd launched a then-rare bid to unionize fast food workers. The union narrowly lost the election, and six workers later claimed they were fired due to their union support. In 2012, an administrative law judge sided with the workers.

Correction: This post originally stated that Brunner "refiled" her lawsuit with Kubelskas after her original filing in July. In fact, she filed a new complaint with Kubelskas making additional allegations.