There are at least two whistleblower lawsuits filed against one of the largest owners of Muscle Maker Grill franchise restaurants. MyCentralJersey.com reports that the suits were filed by former managers. On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Labor Department confirmed the federal investigation, which is being conducted by the departmentâ€™s Wage and Hour Division offices located in North and South Jersey.
The lawsuits name Johns Marques, a Linden resident who owns and operates several eateries. It is alleged that he fired a manager for speaking with a federal labor investigator. According to published reports, he owns at least a dozen locations in New Jersey.
The founder and chairman distanced themselves from the litigation
Last summer, Home News Tribune reported that a former manager of a Muscle Maker Grill in Edison also filed a whistleblower lawsuit against this owner. The person who filed the pending complaint said that she complained to Marques when instructed her to throw away job applications submitted by African-American people. Her lawsuit also alleged that she was instructed by Marques to alter certain employeesâ€™ hours, justifying the actions because the cooks were â€śillegalsâ€ť.
Recently, another whistleblower lawsuit was filed against the Muscle Maker Grill owner. The person who filed the most recent complaint alleged that Marques instructed him to not disclose his â€śpractice of failing to pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours,â€ť during a visit by the Department of Labor, the lawsuit stated. After the whistleblower had the interview with the inspector, Marques questioned what he had said during the 30-minute interview. The manager said that he had not reported any violations, but Marques did not believe him due to the length of the interview. When he reported this conversation to his supervisors, he was fired.
Whistleblowers are individuals who file lawsuits on behalf of the US government when they have information about someoneâ€™s financial wrongdoings, such as tax fraud. These anonymous tipsters are entitled to receive a portion of the money recovered. Recently, it was reported that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) handed out $53 million to whistleblowers in fiscal 2013, including one reported payment of $38 million.