Case Report: Wage Act Class Action Against Restaurant Chain Can Proceed

The Massachusetts State Superior Court issued an opinion on Jan. 5, 2016 allowing a class action for unpaid meal breaks to proceed against the Chateau restaurant chain in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Ryan of Bailey & Glasser and I are co-counsel in this case and jointly representing the putative class.

Interestingly for employment law practitioners in Massachusetts, this is the first time a Massachusetts state court has adopted the “single integrated employer” theory. Because each Chateau restaurant is separately incorporated, the defendants argued that we should only be allowed to sue the named plaintiff’s direct employer (the restaurant where he worked) and shouldn’t be allowed to to include employees from the other restaurant locations in the class. The defendants argued that in order to be able to include the other restaurants, we should have to pass the “joint employment” test, while we argued that the more-streamlined “single integrated employer” test should control.

The Court agreed with our side and ruled that the case could proceed because the individual restaurants and the chain were so integrated with one another that all could be liable as a single integrated employer despite being nominally separate business entities.

The case is Fitzgerald v. The Chateau Restaurant Corp., Case No. 14-01990-J (Middlesex Superior Court). The opinion is attached here.