Winston-Salem pizzeria accused of under paying employees

The US Department of Labor said the owner of pizza chain Cugino Forno denied full wages to 63 workers, but one of the owners denies the allegations. The investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division led to the recovery of $276,048 in back wages.The labor department said in a news release EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria was paying employees below the minimum cash wage for tipped employees, paid some employees wages with tips, and failed to pay employees the required overtime rate when applicable.The federal investigation found EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria paid as little as $1.19 per hour as a cash wage to workers. The minimum cash wage for tipped employees in North Carolina is $2.13 per hour. The Wage and Hour Division said El Cugino Forno violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage provisions by collecting customer tips left for some workers and then using them to pay other employees’ wages. Cugino Forno locations are in Clemmons, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. WXII spoke with one of Cugino Forno’s owners, Joseph Ozbey, about Zoom Friday night. He said no Cugnio Forno employee has ever been paid less than $10 per hour. Ozbey described the allegations against EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria as “absolutely funny, unacceptable and unheard of,” saying there is no such thing in 21st century United States of America you could not have someone working for you for less than a few dollars. He went on to say the only mistake Cugino Forno made was not explaining to employees how they were paying them. Ozbey said they didn’t want people to worry about expenses, so they promised them a minimum of $10 per hour. He said they would collect the tips, and at the end of the month, the tips would be distributed to all employees. If the tips for the month did not add up to $10 per hour for each employee, the company would make up the rest, Ozbey explained. “All of those people who have been working for us for four to five years, if they were getting paid $2-3 an hour, they would not have stayed with us,” Ozbey said. “We stick together, we connected together. During COVID, when others fired staff left and right, we as Cugino Forno, were able to hold them because we knew that was the only income they had. If we let them go, they were not going to be able to find another job.” If you think you may be owed back wages collected by the Wage and Hour Division, you can use a search tool to find out.

The US Department of Labor said the owner of pizza chain Cugino Forno denied full wages to 63 workers, but one of the owners denies the allegations.

The investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division led to the recovery of $276,048 in back wages.

The labor department said in a news release EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria was paying employees below the minimum cash wage for tipped employees, paid some employees wages with tips, and failed to pay employees the required overtime rate when applicable.

The federal investigation found EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria paid as little as $1.19 per hour as a cash wage to workers. The minimum cash wage for tipped employees in North Carolina is $2.13 per hour.

The Wage and Hour Division said El Cugino Forno violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage provisions by collecting customer tips left for some workers and then using them to pay other employees’ wages.

Cugino Forno locations are in Clemmons, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

WXII spoke with one of Cugino Forno’s owners, Joseph Ozbey, about Zoom Friday night. He said no Cugnio Forno employee has ever been paid less than $10 per hour.

Ozbey described the allegations against EL Cugino Forno Pizzeria as “absolutely funny, unacceptable and unheard of,” saying there is no such thing in 21st century United States of America you could not have someone working for you for less than a few dollars.

He went on to say the only mistake Cugino Forno made was not explaining to employees how they were paying them.

Ozbey said they didn’t want people to worry about expenses, so they promised them a minimum of $10 per hour. He said they would collect the tips, and at the end of the month, the tips would be distributed to all employees. If the tips for the month did not add up to $10 per hour for each employee, the company would make up the rest, Ozbey explained.

“All of those people who have been working for us for four to five years, if they were getting paid $2-3 an hour, they would not have stayed with us,” Ozbey said. “We stick together, we connected together. During COVID, when others fired staff left and right, we as Cugino Forno, were able to hold them because we knew that was the only income they had. If we let them go, they were not going to be able to find another job.”

If you think you may be owed back wages collected by the Wage and Hour Division, you can use a search tool to find out.

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