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Crime

Former Wahlburgers Workers Sue Chain Founded by Wahlberg Brothers Over Alleged Unpaid Wages

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Courtesy A&E

Five former employees of the Coney Island franchise of Wahlburgers – a chain of restaurants founded by Mark Wahlberg and his brothers, Paul and Donnie – are suing over alleged unpaid overtime wages and tips, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

On Thursday, the five ex-employees filed a class action lawsuit in New York federal court, alleging that since its September 2015 opening, the Coney Island Wahlburgers franchise has been “rampant with wage theft and violations of federal and state labor law,” the lawsuit states.

The popular chain, which is featured in the hit A&E series of the same name, was founded in 2011 by actor Mark Wahlberg and his brothers, singer and actor Donnie Wahlberg and chef Paul Wahlberg.

The brothers are not named in the suit.

But the suit says that when one of the disgruntled employees told Donnie Wahlberg on August 4, 2016 that there were problems at that particular franchise, the star allegedly replied, “I know.”

The Coney Island Wahlburgers allegedly routinely stiffed its employees, in wages, overtime and tips, the lawsuit goes on to say. The eatery allegedly “maintained a pattern and practice of regularly shaving compensable time from the weekly hours of all its non-exempt employees, including servers, bartenders, bussers and kitchen staff, and paying them for significantly fewer hours than they worked,” the lawsuit says.

The burger joint allegedly failed to pay overtime and “retained” tips left by customers, the lawsuit says.

In fact, the former employees claim that they allegedly failed to receive a $3,000 tip that was left for them by cast of Blue Bloods, the TV series starring Donnie Wahlberg, at the end of a private party.

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The chain is investigating what happened at that franchise, a spokeswoman tells PEOPLE.

“Wahlburgers is all about family,” she says in a statement. “Treating people fairly and with respect is at the heart of our brand. Since this situation came to light yesterday, we’ve been working with Coney Burgers to better understand the circumstances.”

Coney Burgers LLC, the Walhburgers’s Coney Island franchise, also issued a statement, saying, “As a franchisee, we work hard to uphold Wahlburgers’ values and brand culture. We’ve become aware of the dissatisfaction of some of our former employees and are now looking into the matter.”

Representatives for Mark and Donnie Wahlberg did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Since the 2011 launch of the first Wahlburgers in Hingham, Massachusetts, the chain has grown significantly, with locations in Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada. Wahlburgers recently announced plans to expand into California, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina.