FULTONDALE, Ala. (WBRC) - It has been a month since checks were due to former employees of the Wintzell’s Oyster House in Fultondale, but several say they have yet to get paid.
The restaurant abruptly closed at the end of 2019.
At the end of January, former managers Alexis Mahaffey and Erica Pickle claimed they two of more than 20 former employees who were owed more than $10,000 collectively.
“We tried calling everybody. Corporate... nobody can help us,” said Mahaffey.
Their calls to the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division didn’t work, according to Mahaffey.
“They explained to me that because the restaurant had closed down there was nothing they could do,” said Mahaffey.
According to the DOL Wage and Hour Division Is investigating the employer who they believe is “ operating at a different location“. A spokesperson for the DOL also said if a businesses has closed there is nothing the government can do and that the employees would have to get an attorney and sue the owner in small claims court.
“Labor laws are pretty complicated. Especially the Fair Labor Standard Act which is typically what these claims involve,” said attorney Jeremy Schatz.
Schatz isn’t representing the employees of Wintzell’s Fultondale but offered insight into the legal process.
“Getting to the bottom of the reasoning for the non-payment is generally most important,” said Schatz.
If the owner of a business files bankruptcy it’s hard for employees to get the full amount they are owed because they’d be lumped in with other creditors, according to Schatz.
“However, there’s one caveat, the Fair Labor Standard Act defines employer fairly broadly and in certain circumstances you can actually get individuals that were involved in the business if they fall into certain categories. If they had control over scheduling, the ways that jobs are to be completed, things of that nature,” explained Schatz.
After reaching out to the Department of Labor- Wage and Hours Division about the case, a spokesperson said they do believe they have grounds to go after the owner of Wintzell’s- Fultondale for the money owed to employees because of other businesses he is believed to operate.
The D.O.L then called for the employees to file a claim with the department:
"They will need to come into our office and file a complaint. In my signature line below, is the address to our offices. We are open Monday-Friday from 8am to 4:30pm and they are welcome to walk in at any time to file a complaint. When they come in to file a complaint with us the below information will be useful to us:
- Their Name
- Address and phone number where they can be reached
- Name of Company where they worked
- Location of Company
- Phone number of the company
- Manager’s or owner’s name
- Type of work they performed
- How and when they were paid (for example, by check every Friday)
Any additional information that they can provide the investigator, such as copies of pay stubs, personal records of hours worked, or details about their employer’s pay practices, will be helpful.
Keep in mind that all of our services are free and confidential, whether they are documented or not. If by any chance we are not able to assist them, we will make every effort to refer them to the appropriate agency or organization."
The spokesperson said the DOL could not say how many claims have been submitted due to their confidentiality policy but Mahaffey said she knew of at least three employees who had filed claims.
We spoke to the attorney representing the man employees claim is responsible for their pay but he refused to give a statement.