One owner of nine different Papa John franchises was handed a surprising sentence this week after failing to pay his employees properly as well as falsifying documents. Wage advocates will surely be thankful to the New York Attorney General who made the decision to give Abdul Jamil Khokhar 60 days in jail following his guilty plea from back in July.
It is being reported that the jail sentence is the first of its kind, as the failure of the Papa John’s franchisee to pay his workers in accordance with the New York Labor Law is technically a misdemeanor, even though that back pay amounted to a lovely $230,000. In addition to the 60 days in jail, he was also ordered to pay restitution of $230,000 as well as $280,000 in penalties and $230,000 in restitution to the 300 current and former workers he stole from. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave an official statement on Monday regarding Khokhar’s sentence.
“Wage theft is a crime and a Papa John’s franchisee is now going to jail for cheating his employees and trying to cover it up. My office will do everything in its power to protect the rights of New York’s workers and make sure that all employers – including fast food restaurants – follow the law.”
Abdul Jamil Khokhar’s guilty plea came in a state court in the Bronx, which is the borough where all nine of his Papa John’s restaurants are located. In addition to pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of failing to follow New York labor laws and swindling his employees, he has a felony charge of filing false business records. Although technically his company, BMY Foods Inc. pled guilty to the falsifying business records. In the attempt to avoid paying those wages, Khokhar actually created fake employee names to add to the company’s time-keeping system and then filed fake tax returns.
Essentially the use of those fake names meant that no employee logged more than their 40 hours in the Papa John’s system. Any employee who worked overtime was only paid for their regular work hours, and to avoid paying the time-and-a-half rate required for overtime, any overtime would actually be credited to those fictitious employees as regular hours. All the overtime pay not given was then pocketed by BYM Foods Inc.
Jezebel reported that wage theft is actually an all-too-common occurrence within the restaurant industry with lawsuits and rulings on the subject being filed and handed down with a regularity that has almost become mundane. Failure to pay overtime is the most common accusation. One of the reasons that this surprising jail sentence for the Papa John’s franchisee may have come about is because the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had a somewhat personal stake in the outcome. Schneiderman’s office had undertaken a two-year investigation into Papa John’s restaurants across the city. Thus far, the owners of over 29 franchise locations have had to reach settlements with the Attorney General’s office, which is almost half of the total Papa John’s locations in the city. In the state of New York, franchise owners can technically be held personally responsible for wage policies, and the AG seems to be on a path to ensure that they do.
In an article by the New York Post, Don Sniegowski, who founded the restaurant franchisee news site Blue MauMau, spoke on the strange occurrence of the Papa John’s franchisee being sentenced to jail.
“This is very, very rare. I’ve not heard of anyone going to jail for pay issues.”
However, some sources say that the Attorney General’s investigation into Papa John’s restaurants has been a little too zealous. The process has discouraged certain innocent franchise owners from continuing in the business at all, and certain locations have closed as a result of Eric Schneiderman’s interest in unlawful practices within Papa John’s franchises.
[Photo by Susan Montgomery/Getty Images]