Local bikini barista company ordered to pay $85K in back wages

by: Amy Clancy, KIRO 7 Consumer Investigator Updated:

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SEATTLE —

A local bikini coffee company under federal investigation for not paying its baristas has agreed to hand over $85,000 in back wages, penalties and damages.

 

Forty-five current and former employees of Baristas Coffee Company will get their money -- and it's all because Baristas has just reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor.

 

KIRO 7 Consumer Investigator Amy Clancy was the first to expose the company.

 

The Department of Labor told Clancy that Baristas was simply exploiting its bikini-clad employees -- that the company was unwilling to make those baristas whole until the federal government stepped in and filed a lawsuit in September.

 

That threat of court action has led to a settlement.

 

Forty-five current and former employees of Baristas Coffee Company, also known as Pangea Networks Inc, will get the wages they are owed: $50,000 in back wages and $25,000 in damages. Baristas will also pay a civil fine of $10,000 in penalties.

 

"The firm failed to make payroll. They issued checks that were non-sufficient funds. They issued to some of these baristas photo copies of paychecks, simply a photocopy, and said, 'We don't have any money. You'll need to come back to work and take money out of the till,'" said Donna Hart of the U.S. Department of Labor.

 

KIRO 7 Consumer Investigators first exposed Baristas for exactly those practices back in February 2011.

 

We interviewed former employees who claim they had to badger owners Barry Henthorn and Scott Steciw for their money.

 

"Where's my paycheck? Aren't you going to pay me?  When are you going to pay me?" said Bonnie Walker, a former barista.

 

And when those workers were paid, their checks often bounced.

 

"I lost a lot of things.  I lost my car, my insurance, my cellphone. I could have saved my apartment while working there, paying that off.  But I lost all of it," Ashley Hughes, a former barista.

 

Clancy: "Because you couldn't pay your bills?"

Hughes: "Couldn't."

Clancy: "Because they weren't paying you?"

Hughes: "No."

 

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries investigated and ordered Baristas to pay nearly $5,000 in wages, interests and penalties.

 

Wednesday, KIRO 7 learned that Baristas has paid that in full.

 

But in addition to the state investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor launched its own investigation and filed a labor complaint against Baristas last September on behalf of 45 employees who also claimed to not have been paid.

 

Wednesday's agreement means, they too, will get their money.

And the feds say they will be watching to make sure Henthorn and Steciw pay all employees in the future.

 

"Contained in this agreement is a permanent injuction that the employer assures future compliance with both the fair labor standards act, minimum wage and overtime requirements as well as record-keeping."

 

Today, the owner of Baristas, Barry Henthorn issued this statement:

 

"We worked very closely to resolve any and all issues and are glad to have the matter behind us so that we can focus expanding our business beyond our current five state region.  We have implemented very strict guidelines to insure that we will not have any issues in the future. 

As you are aware there was no admission of wrong doing however we felt that it was in the best interest of our investors to resolve the dispute and move forward."

 

U.S. Department of Labor website

 

Read Amy Clancy's stories regarding Baristas Coffee Co: