By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK, March 5 (Reuters) - A New York judge ordered a Papa John's pizza restaurant franchise and its owner to fork over more than $2 million after short-changing hundreds of delivery workers and shaving hours from their paychecks, prosecutors said on Thursday.
The judgment comes amid a national debate over minimum wage laws that has sparked protests by fast-food employees and prompted cities across the United States to propose wage increases for their lowest-paid workers.
"I call on all fast food franchisors, including Papa John's, to take steps necessary to ensure that their workers - the backbone of their business - are treated fairly and paid the wages the law requires," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
Schneiderman last October sued the Papa John's International Inc franchisee, New Majority Holdings, LLC, and its owner, Ronald Johnson, who owns five of the pizza restaurants in the Harlem section of Manhattan.
In a judgment filed on Tuesday, New York County Supreme Court Justice Joan Kenney ordered the business to pay employees a little more than $2.1 million in back wages, unreimbursed expenses, damages and interest.
Earlier this year, Schneiderman obtained a nearly $800,000 judgment against the operator of another Papa John's franchisee, Emstar Pizza, Inc.
His office has also reached several out-of-court settlements with other fast-food franchises, including Domino's Pizza Inc and McDonald's Corp restaurants, over worker wages and employment conditions. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Christian Plumb)