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Michigan’s Attorney General Steps Into Epicurean Group Lawsuit to Ensure Workers Get Paid

Dozens of former employees have filed payroll fraud complaints in the wake of the restaurant group’s collapse

A stock photo of $38 dollars and change on a plate with a bill suggesting tips amounts and a metal fork. Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel is wading into the messy collapse of metro Detroit’s Epicurean Group to help ensure the workers stuck in the middle get paid.

Nessel’s office announced today in a release that it has intervened in a lawsuit that the defunct restaurant group’s owner Ryan Moore filed against Stanley Dickson Jr., Epicurean’s previous owner, because it fails to address back pay for the restaurant employees who were laid off in July. The attorney general’s office has filed both a motion to intervene and a motion for a temporary restraining order.

The attorney general’s office has received “dozens of complaints of payroll fraud,” since Epicurean dissolved in July, according to the release. “While decisions were being made to sell a company, its workers appear to have been left in the dark and without pay,” Nessel says in a statement. “It’s important that any resolution in this case properly restores any and all wages these employees worked hard for. And since no one else has kept those hard workers in mind during this process, I am keeping my promise to Michigan workers and will absolutely fight to ensure they are paid in full.”

Epicurean, once considered one of metro Detroit’s leading restaurant groups, folded in mid-July. The group operated eight Southeast Michigan restaurants and catering businesses including Nomad Grill, VI Chophouse, and Plaza Deli Southfield. Moore informed staff that they were being laid off effective Saturday, July 20 in an internal email sent on Sunday, July 21. The email stated that ownership of the group was being transferred back to its previous owner Stanley Dickson Jr., who claimed to know nothing about the situation.

Moore bought Epicurean Group from Dickson Jr. in January. The lawsuit, filed in August, alleges that when Dickson Jr. breached his contract with Moore by failing to provide financial data about the restaurant group after the deal was finalized.

Food service workers experience some of the highest rates of wage theft of any industry and Michigan restaurant workers are not immune. In 2018, 520 workers at Michigan Taco Bells filed a collective lawsuit against a local franchisee for alleged wage theft. The U.S. Department of Labor ordered Ann Arbor restaurants including Gourmet Garden to pay more than $100,000 in back pay to employees. Seoul Garden in Ann Arbor was similarly ordered by a federal court to pay back wages to restaurant workers in 2018.

Major Metro Detroit Restaurant Group Implodes, Tries to Lay Off Employees [Freep]
Legal Fight Starts in Epicurean Disintegration [Crain’s]
Major Metro Detroit Restaurant Group Abruptly Lays Off Employees [ED]
All Lawsuits Coverage [ED]