Pizza chain took its workers’ tips to pay other employees in North Carolina, feds say

A North Carolina pizza chain took customer tips for workers and used the money to pay other employees, according to federal labor department officials.

Dozens of Cugino Forno workers depended on these tips while they were paid below the federal minimum wage, with some making as little as $1.19 per hour, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a June 15 news release.

More than $275,000 in back wages owed to 63 workers at the chain’s Clemmons, Greensboro and Winston-Salem locations were recovered by the agency following an investigation, the department said.

McClatchy News has not received a response to a June 16 request for comment from Cugino Forno.

The investigation comes after Cugino Forno’s Greensboro location was ranked one of America’s top pizza shops nationwide by Yelp, McClatchy News previously reported.

The Labor Department also discovered several Cugino Forno workers were denied overtime pay, the news release said. The chain is accused of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In North Carolina, the hourly minimum wage rate for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour, according to the agency.

At a minimum, the workers should have made at least $7.25 an hour combining hourly pay and customer tips.

Cugino Forno has two other locations in the state, in Durham and in Wilmington, which were not involved in the Labor Department’s investigation.

In 2021, the Labor Department discovered that 29,000 food service workers in the U.S. missed out on more than $34.7 million in pay that the agency ultimately recovered for them, the news release said.

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