29, Magistrate Judge Reyes handed a long-awaited victory to two former kitchen
workers of Gulluoglu Baklava & Cafe, which is based in Turkey and is well-known throughout the
world for its 100+ years of experience making baklava and other baked goods.
The workers in this case worked for U.S. locations in Brooklyn, Queens and
Manhattan. The workers testified at a two day trial that they received a fixed weekly salary
and often worked sixty or more hours a
week assembling and baking baklava and other Turkish breads and treats. Pechman Law Group, which represented the
workers, argued that Gulluoglu was required to pay the workers an hourly wage
under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law and that the fixed
salary did not cover the many overtime hours
they had worked.
owner, Ercan Karabeyoglu, testified that the workers were technically trained
to make pastry and baklava and therefore were exempt workers who could be paid
a salary. The Court had rejected that
argument before and reached the same conclusion after trial. Judge Reyes found that the former Gulluoglu workers
spent the majority of their time embellishing pre-made goods imported from
Turkey or baking foods using common, traditional recipes, which “did not
require special training or creativity” and did not fall within the overtime
exemption that applies to creative professionals. Even though the workers were talented, the
Court said, they did not use their formal training at Gulluoglu and were
entitled to be paid overtime wages for hours worked forty per week. They were
also entitled to spread-of-hours
found that Gulluoglu willfully disregarded the law in denying the workers
overtime pay and ordered Gulluoglu to pay $388,441 plus interest, attorney’s
fees and costs, for unpaid wages, liquidated, and statutory damages.
Laura Rodriguez and Lillian Marquez
represented the kitchen workers.