Mark Wahlberg's Restaurant Chain Sued Over "Wage Theft" Claims

Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic
Mark (left) and Donnie Wahlberg

The Boston-based restaurant franchise was founded by Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg in 2011.

A class action complaint filed Thursday against Mark and Donnie Wahlberg's chain of burger restaurants alleges that its Coney Island franchise "has been rampant with wage theft and violations of federal and state labor law" since it opened in 2015.

The restaurant "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," according to the complaint.

Wahlburgers is a Boston-based restaurant franchise that brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg founded in 2011. The company espouses "working class" values on its website and has active involvement from all three of its founding partners.

Its day-to-day operations are helmed by Paul Wahlberg, who is the oldest of the three brothers and a professional chef. The first location opened in Hingham, Mass., just outside Boston, hometown of the Wahlberg family.

The chain also lends its name to the A&E reality series that follows the brothers as they operate and publicize their business. The show is now in its sixth season and earned A&E an Emmy nomination for outstanding unstructured reality program.

"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," the complaint notes. "Indeed, the company's slogan is 'Our family, our story, our burgers.'"

Filed in federal court in New York, the complaint also alleges that the restaurant "regularly retained gratuities left by customers for tipped employees" and "repeatedly ignored the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act."

The franchisee who opened the Wahlburgers' franchises in New York City and Long Island is John Cestare, according to the filing, who could not be reached for comment.

"The plaintiffs first went to local management, and they didn't do anything," Mitchell Schley, lawyer for the plaintiffs, told The Hollywood Reporter by phone. "Then they complained to Paul in Boston, but they were so frustrated after months and months of hearing nothing."

Wahlburgers did not immediately respond to request for comment, nor did a rep for Mark Wahlberg. 

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