Washington, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced a lawsuit against Turning Natural, Inc. and Jerri Evans – a local cafe and its owner – for failing to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, and failing to provide paid sick leave. In the complaint, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that Turning Natural systematically underpaid workers and failed to provide its employees with legally-required paid sick leave. OAG is seeking monetary and injunctive relief for harmed employees, and to recover penalties to the District.
“Turning Natural cheated their employees and violated the basic wage, overtime, and sick leave rules that all District employers are required to follow,” said Attorney General Racine. “We’re suing to get hard-working District workers the pay and benefits they earned, and to send a message to employers that steal wages from their employees. Wage theft is illegal and will not be tolerated. The Office of the Attorney General will enforce the law.”
Turning Natural, Inc. is a chain of cafes that sells fruit and vegetable juices in the District, with locations in Capitol Hill and Anacostia, and plans to expand in Shaw. Jerri Evans is the owner and chief operating officer of Turning Natural. The business employs more than a dozen employees who prepare juices and food, serve customers, and clean and stock the cafe.
According to OAG’s complaint, Turning Natural has denied multiple employees minimum wage, overtime, and paid sick leave. The complaint, which primarily details the experiences of three former employees, alleges that these violations were systemic throughout the company. OAG’s complaint alleges that these practices violated the District’s Minimum Wage Revision Act and the Sick and Safe Leave Act. Specifically, Turning Natural’s alleged violations include:
- Failing to pay minimum wage: Since 2015, Turning Natural failed to pay multiple employees the minimum wage as required by District law. At least three former employees reported being paid sub-minimum wages over multiple months for hundreds of hours worked. Employees even confronted Ms. Evans about the District’s minimum wage law, and she refused to comply. (Note: the District’s minimum wage increases on an annual basis, and is currently $13.25 per hour, as of July 1, 2018.)
- Failing to pay overtime: The defendants also failed to pay multiple employees overtime wages. Turning Natural employees routinely were required to work shifts totaling more than 40 hours per week, but received no overtime wages for their labor. The District’s overtime laws require employers to pay employees at least 1.5 times their regular rate for hours worked in excess of a 40 hour workweek.
- Failing to provide paid sick leave: District law requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave, which protects workers in the event they fall ill and are unable to work. Turning Natural failed to provide any paid sick leave whatsoever to multiple employees throughout the time they were employed at Turning Natural.
A copy of the complaint is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2018-07/2018-06-29-Turning-Natural-Complaint-Filed.pdf
In the complaint, OAG is seeking relief for the employees who were harmed, including an award of the wages and overtime pay that was stolen from employees and liquidated damages. OAG is also seeking applicable penalties under District law. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law.
How to Report Wage Theft Violations
Workers who believe that they have experienced wage theft or other wage and hour violations can contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Housing and Community Justice Section by phone at: (202) 442-9854
More information about workers’ rights under District law and how they can get help if their rights are being violated is available on OAG’s website: https://oag.dc.gov/workers-rights