BOYSTOWN — Big Jim's, which expanded this past spring from the Boystown staple Little Jim's, paid $1,681.05 in back overtime wages to seven employees after an investigation by the Illinois Department of Labor.
Investigators discovered that one employee was not being paid Chicago's minimum wage of $11, which is higher than Illinois' minimum wage of $8.25. That employee was referred by the labor department to the Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department.
The labor department became involved when a former Big Jim's employee, Randy Lancaster, filed a complaint after not receiving proper payment for both overtime and regular wages.
Lancaster started working for Big Jim's in February and was fired a little more a month later over what he describes as a misunderstanding. Though he had originally applied for a job as a bartender, he said he was asked to be the manager of the restaurant.
"I was told, 'This is what we'll pay you in an hour,'" Lancaster said. "I said, 'OK fine.'"
When his first paycheck came, it only covered 40 hours of work even though he had worked overtime. He was told there was a mistake with some paperwork, so he gave the business the benefit of the doubt and continued working.
Then Lancaster was fired because the owners of the restaurant overheard him say, "I'm the owner," in reference to his car parked behind the restaurant, but they interpreted that as him claiming ownership of the restaurant.
"What they said to my supervisor at the time was that I was telling people I owned the restaurant, and they wanted me gone," he said. "They fired me for one of the stupidest things I have ever heard of in my life, and I've never been fired from a job."
When it was time for Lancaster to receive his second and final paycheck, he said he was radically shortchanged and paid in cash with a note stating he was on salary, not hourly, so he would receive no overtime pay.
"I was not salary, I was an hourly employee," he said. "So I tried to resolve the situation with them, but when they stood their ground, I went to the Illinois Department of Labor."
When Lancaster told his supervisor he was going to get authorities involved, he received text messages saying other employees had made complaints about sexual harassment by Lancaster to management. Lancaster denies the claims and said he was never contacted by police.
"They were trying to intimidate me to go away about this payroll," Lancaster said. "Nothing has ever come from that, and no one, as far as I know, has ever filed a sexual harassment complaint against me. I think it was just a scare tactic to try to get me to go away. I was supposed to just accept the money they had given me."
Lancaster filed a complaint with the labor department on April 20, and two cases were opened — one for his regular wages and one for his overtime wages. He said his regular pay was corrected in about a month, and during the investigation of his overtime wages, it was discovered that six other employees also had irregularities with overtime pay.
"In the time period of the complaint, Feb. 28 to April 10, the Department found that the employer did not pay overtime to six more employees," said Ben Noble, spokesman for the labor department.
Lancaster was paid $284.50 on June 20 for the overtime pay owed to him. He said that was only one-third of what he was actually owed, but because Big Jim's only uses paper time sheets, investigators were unable to verify the entirety of his claim.
On Sept. 14, the labor department issued a notice to Big Jim's that it was not in compliance with the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and that it owed an additional $1,396.55 in back overtime wages to six more employees. Big Jim's has paid all back wages and overtime wages, and no fines or penalties were issued, Noble said.
Noble said labor department investigations are complaint-driven, so there is no follow-up procedure now that the complaint and past violations have been resolved.
A representative from Big Jim's did not respond to requests for comment.