WICKER PARK — Two city departments are investigating possible labor and anti-discrimination law violations at Parlor Pizza’s three locations.
The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Chicago Commission on Human Relations are “working to conduct a comprehensive investigation of allegations that workers were not paid for overtime work, that employees were sexually harassed and that customers were discriminated against based on their race and/or age,” according to a statement provided to Block Club.
The investigation comes after Block Club last week reported allegations from former Parlor employees that customers of color were seated in areas unofficially dubbed “rejection sections” at the company’s River North eatery. Workers across Parlor’s three locations also said they were harassed, not paid for overtime and overworked.
“We have not received notification of an inquiry, but we would fully cooperate with any government agency reviewing our business operations and we are confident that a fact-finding process will disprove the allegations,” a Parlor spokesperson said in a statement.
Parlor has denied the allegations.
“We firmly dispute these serious allegations and the blatantly false picture being painted of our restaurants, how we operate them and how we treat our valued employees and customers,” a spokesperson said in a statement last week.
The city’s probe comes amid another investigation of all three restaurants.
Last month, all three Parlor locations were shut down for two days after being raided by Chicago police. Police said they were helping investigate a case with the state’s revenue department, which has declined to comment.
After the raid, Block Club spoke to former employees about their experiences at Parlor Pizza, which opened a West Loop location in 2014 and has expanded to Wicker Park and River North.
Four former servers said people of color were often seated in less visible or desirable sections at the locations in River North, 405 N. Dearborn St., and Wicker Park, 1824 W. Division St.
“They try to sit younger, white people by the windows,” former server Ilsa Morales said. “Because that’s what Parlor is: They want people, you know, late 20s, early 30s, young professionals, white. They want them by the windows. And they want everybody else in the back.”
That included so-called “rejection sections” at the company’s River North location where customers of color were often seated in the back of the restaurant or in a specific section of the restaurant’s patio, employees said.
Parlor said it “disavow[s] racism and any discriminatory behavior” at all locations, and any employee who “acted in such a despicable way” would be fired immediately.
“We will not accept even the slightest insinuation that we would have such a racist policy,” the company said in a statement last week.
Former Parlor employees also alleged they were frequently made to work without pay.
Four former Parlor servers at all three locations said some managers would instruct servers to clock out of their shifts and then spend two to three unpaid hours rolling silverware with napkins.
When asked if management directed employees to roll silverware while off the clock, Parlor’s representatives said, “Absolutely not.”
Parlor Pizza has been sued twice by former employees for refusing to pay overtime wages. Both of those lawsuits were settled, according to court documents.
The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is encouraging current and former Parlor employees “who believe they were harmed” to contact the Office of Labor Standards by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 312-744-2211.
The Chicago Commission on Human Relations is encouraging Parlor customers who “believe they were discriminated against based on a protected class which includes race, national origin, age and/or were denied an accommodation related to a disability” to contact them by emailing email@example.com or by calling 312-744-4474.
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