Judge Rules Massachusetts Restaurant Chain Can Be Sued Over Meal Breaks

A Massachusetts Superior Court justice ruled that a class-action suit against the Chateau Restaurant Corporation could proceed after finding that 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. This is the first time a Massachusetts state court has adopted the “single integrated employer” theory.

Bailey & Glasser attorney Elizabeth Ryan of the firm’s Boston office, and Nicholas Ortiz of the Law Office of Nicholas F. Ortiz, P.C., represent Kevin Fitzgerald both as an individual and on behalf of other hourly managers employed by the Chateau Restaurant Corporation at the chain’s eight locations in Massachusetts.

Fitzgerald is suing over the chain’s meal break policy for hourly managers. Though managers were unable to leave the restaurant during their breaks if they were the only manager on duty, and required to be immediately available for any staff or customer issues, their pay was automatically deducted for a half-hour meal break every shift.

In a motion to dismiss, the restaurant chain argued that Fitzgerald could only sue on behalf of other managers of the location he worked at. Superior Court Justice Bruce Henry denied the motion, ruling that the complaint sufficiently pled that the management company and individual locations were intertwined enough to establish common liability.

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

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