You may have eaten at Bad Bob's BBQ, formerly Kemosabee's, or at least driven by the restaurant. It is billed as a BBQ joint, but former employees say management is serving up more than just pulled pork and ribs. Workers say Bad Bob's is serving up bull: rejection excuses and empty promises to some of the people who have worked there over the years.
Back in September, we reported the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division investigated the restaurant and determined it owed employees thousands in back wages.
Bad Bob's has since closed its Boones Creek location. Tonight the restaurant is expected to re-open at a new location in Colonial Heights.
At the time of our first story, the listed owner, currently living in New Jersey, promised to pay the employees. However, the people we've heard from still haven't received a check.
"I'm putting together money," Mayuri Patel said. "I have a couple thousand dollars. I'm just going to pay them out of my own pocket. Fundamentally, they work for me, essentially they do their jobs. I'm going to write them checks. I told you one way or the other they are going to get paid."
Patel lives in what tax assessors call a ritzy New Jersey neighborhood in what she calls her parent's home, which is assessed at $746,100. At one time, Patel was listed as the owner of Keemosabee's Inc., also known as Bad Bob's.
Mary Fields was once one of Patel's employees. Today she's unemployed. After our last story aired, she received a letter from the U.S. Department of Labor.
"It said that they owed me $5,474.30 in back wages," Fields said.
That money would go a long way if the company would just pay her.
"Right now, I get $113 a week (in) unemployment," Fields said. "As it is right now, with $113 I can't even buy my grandkids any Christmas (gifts)."
Fields is one of 22 employees now owed back pay, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The agency said the restaurant owes those people a combined $15,039 for "minimum wage violations."
"The investigation found that the employer had misclassified a manager and servers as independent contractors," spokesperson Michael D'Aquino said in an email. "At this point we understand that the employer has made statements to pay, but as far as we know, has not yet done so. We have also informed individual workers of their right to sue to recover wages."
Bad Bob's President and CEO, the soon to be ex-husband of the owner, says the restaurant doesn't owe the employees a dime.
Hardev Patel is a Bluff City dentist. Last week, he told us he wasn't going to pay unless, "The U.S. government comes to the table and shows me we underpaid them."
"The employees manipulated their time," Patel said.
Dr. Patel agreed to meet face-to-face to share his side of the story on-camera, but when we arrived at Bad Bob's new location, he never showed up. Instead, in a profanity-laced phone tirade, he told us to get off his property. We did.
While the Patels squabble, Fields and others are stuck in the middle. They continue to wait for their money, hoping they can cash in the owner's promise.
"I know that it's a lie that we manipulated the time clock," Fields said. "I'd like to say yes (Mayuri Patel) would make good to all the people that's owed, but that's to be seen."
The government has the authority to sue on behalf of these employees. However, the Department of Labor told these employees it doesn't have the resources to do that in every case. In this case, the government said it is not going to pursue litigation.
Although disappointed, Fields says if she has to sue, she will.
"It bothers me that the labor board is not pushing the issue," Fields said. "I'm going to do my best to (get the money), even if I have to get a lawyer for myself."