Former Suburban House Workers Sue for Alleged Unpaid Wages

Suburban House Restaurant is facing a class-action lawsuit concerning unpaid wages. (Photo by Justin Silberman)

Former employees of Pikesville eatery Suburban House Restaurant are suing the restaurant for alleged failure to pay minimum and overtime wages.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by three former employees in the U.S. District Court of Maryland this past November, claims Suburban House co-owner Mark Horowitz regularly failed to pay employees at least $3.63 per hour, the pre-tipped minimum wage required by Maryland’s Fair Labor Standards Act.

An attorney for the restaurant filed a motion on Feb. 16 asking for the case to be dismissed. Less than a week later, on Tuesday, the plaintiffs’ attorney filed an amendment that would expand the scope of the claims.

Two of the three lead plaintiffs, Nicholas Peterson of White Marsh and Jena B. Danson of Baltimore, were hired at Suburban House through the Baltimore Department of Corrections work-release program. The other lead plaintiff, Cali Fitzgerald of Nottingham, was not on work-release.

Howard B. Hoffman, a Rockville-based attorney representing the plaintiffs, estimated as many as 100 former Suburban House employees could be included in the class action. He predicts the court will deny the motion to dismiss.

“We have prayed for a jury trial,” Hoffman said via email.

The lawsuit also states that employees, ranging from workers in the kitchen and front of house, regularly worked more than 40 hours per week but did not receive the $10.88-per-hour minimum wage for overtime required under state law.

Melanie L. Glickson, attorney for Suburban House, which is located in the Pomona Square shopping center in Pikesville, asked the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that individuals on work-release are not entitled to the protection of minimum wage and overtime laws. The motion to dismiss addressed Peterson and Danson by name but did not make any mention of Fitzgerald.

In court documents, the defendants deny violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law and the Maryland Wage Hour Law.

“The complaint lacks any allegation that the named plaintiffs or any other employee regularly worked over 40 hours per workweek,” court documents said. “This is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.”

On the motion to dismiss, Hoffman said, “I think it’s sad that an employer would ask a court to dismiss a case arguing that these folks who need a new start have less of an entitlement to the laws’ protections.”

Horowitz and Glickson declined to comment on the pending case.

Danson was employed by Suburban House from January 2014 through May 2014, according to court documents, while Peterson was employed with the restaurant from October 2014 through December 2014 and then again from April 2015 through May 2015.

Danson claimed she failed to receive her final two paychecks, and when she asked for those wages, “Horowitz told her that her pay was ‘months ago’ and ‘to get off my f—ing property,’” according to court records.

Unlike Danson and Peterson, Fitzgerald was not on work-release through any correctional institution during her two stints of employment from January 2015 to August 2015 and October 2015 to September 2016. Throughout her employment, court documents indicated, Fitzgerald regularly worked more than 40 hour per week but was not paid proper overtime rates.

Suburban House had hired many people through the Baltimore County Department of Corrections work-release program, Hoffman said, “but for some reason … Baltimore County terminated its relationship with Suburban House.”

Phillip M. Pokorny, supervisor at the Community Corrections Office of the Baltimore County Department of Corrections, declined to comment if Suburban House was still enrolled in the work-release program. The JT on Monday submitted a Public Information Act request regarding Suburban House’s status in the program.

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