Food by VICE

Marky Mark and the Funky Lunch: Wahlburgers Is Being Sued for Wage Theft

The lawsuit against the reality show stars alleges that their Coney Island franchise "has been rampant with wage theft and violations of federal and state labor law" ever since opening in 2015.

by Alex Swerdloff
Aug 22 2016, 7:00pm

Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images.

It turns out that three Wahlbergs might not always make a right. A lawsuit has just been filed against the reality show stars, claiming that they denied their restaurant employees the right to receive the wages and tips they spent countless backbreaking hours earning.

Mark, Paul, and Donnie Wahlberg's Boston-based chain restaurant, Wahlburgers, is now being sued in a class action lawsuit for alleged wage theft. The lawsuit, which was filed last week, alleges that the Coney Island franchise of their chain "has been rampant with wage theft and violations of federal and state labor law" ever since opening in 2015.

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Wahlburgers was founded by the brothers in 2011 and is the subject of an eponymous show on A&E, which was nominated for an Emmy for "outstanding unstructured reality program." Now in its sixth season, the series focuses on the brothers as they run the business. Paul Wahlberg, a professional chef and the oldest of the brothers, is in charge of day-to-day operations. According to the complaint, "The Wahlberg brothers pride themselves on taking an active role in managing their locations and insuring that their restaurants meet their high standards for customer and employee experience."

But the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in New York this week, alleges that something was going very wrong in the Coney Island branch. It claims that that franchise "maintained a pattern and practice of regularly shaving compensable time from the weekly hours of all its non-exempt employees, including servers, bartenders, bussers and kitchen staff, and paying them significantly fewer hours than they actually worked."

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Wahlburgers is a franchise, meaning that a franchisee—in this case a man named John Cestare—owns and runs the Coney Island store. The lawyer for the employees bringing the lawsuit said that he reached out to Cestare before filing it, but that neither Cestare nor Paul Wahlberg addressed the complaints—so he took matters to court.

When MUNCHIES reached out to Wahlburgers for comment, a spokesperson provided us with the following statement: "Wahlburgers is all about family. Treating people fairly and with respect is at the heart of our brand. Since this situation came to light yesterday, we've been working with Coney Burgers to better understand the circumstances."

As far as Mark, Paul, and Donnie Wahlberg are concerned, it looks like they are in serious need of some good vibrations.