Pinky Cole, founder of the popular vegan restaurant chain Slutty Vegan, has been hit with another lawsuit. This one is through New York City’s Brooklyn Federal Court as three former employees of the new Slutty Vegan Brooklyn location recently filed a lawsuit accusing the restaurant of failure to pay overtime, unpaid bonuses and miscalculated paychecks. This is the second federal wage theft lawsuit filed against the company.
“Defendants knowingly and willfully operated their business with a policy of not providing all non-exempt employees proper wage notices at the time of hiring and annually thereafter,” court documents revealed.
Slutty Vegan, owned by Pinky Cole, features plant-based sandwiches such as “Dancehall Queen,” “Hollywood Hooker” and “Super Slut.” After a $25 million investment deal from Shake Shack’s Danny Meyer, Slutty Vegan is in the midst of a rapid expansion. There are presently nine locations open — one in Birmingham, Alabama; six in Atlanta, and two in New York City. By the end of 2023, the franchise is expected to have 20 locations throughout the United States, and its valuation is estimated to be worth $100 million.
Yet the stain of another lawsuit related to wage theft could tarnish Cole’s brand. Slutty Vegan issued a statement regarding the allegations.
“Slutty Vegan is deeply committed to creating a positive and supportive work environment for all of its employees and takes the wellbeing of its staff very seriously,” the statement reads. “Slutty Vegan takes its legal obligations seriously, and especially those relating to its staff. It maintains an open door policy and invites employees to express their concerns with management so that they can be examined and resolved in a fair, reasonable and lawful manner. We are aware of the lawsuit recently filed in the U.S. District Court in New York, and are reviewing it with our legal counsel. Slutty Vegan does not comment on any pending litigation, except that it is committed to complying with all applicable laws. Slutty Vegan is passionately dedicated to making a positive impact, not only with respect to its employees and customers, but also within the communities it serves.”
A Look At The Latest Lawsuit
Three former employees are arguing that Slutty Vegan did not pay them several thousand dollars in overtime and bonuses. In addition, they contend that their paychecks were miscalculated.
While the lawsuit does not provide an estimate of how much money was withheld from the workers, the specific quarterly bonuses two workers claim they were promised is included. Patch estimates that the bonuses were at least $27,000.
Branden Cook worked at Slutty Vegan as a certified trainer between 2022 and 2023. His hourly wage often teetered between $16.50 and $17.50. Cook claims that his overtime was denied and that he was responsible for the purchase of some work uniforms.
In May 2022, Davaughn Clarke and Latoya Adams were hired, respectively, as senior assistant general manager and assistant general manager. Clarke and Adams claim they were supposed to receive bonuses that reportedly never came to fruition. In addition, they reportedly were misclassified as non-exempt employees and required to fulfill obligations not agreed upon when they were initially hired.
Pinky’s Other Lawsuit
In December 2022, Cole was hit with a lawsuit by one of her former workers at her Bar Vegan business. It is a vegan cocktail bar Cole launched in February 2021 in Atlanta. Former employee Morgan Georgia says she worked at Bar Vegan for over two years and that the restaurant paid tipped employees like her $2.13 an hour, and required them to give up 25 percent of their tips, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.
Through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, she is suing Cole and other Bar Vegan owners over unpaid wages at one of her businesses, claiming the establishment paid her less than the federal minimum wage.
Cole responded to the ongoing lawsuit via social media.
In an Instagram post on Jan. 11, Cole wrote: “Since I was a kid, I have only operated with integrity. I don’t lie, I don’t steal and more importantly, I DON’T PLAY WITH PEOPLE’S MONEY. Maybe it’s the Caribbean in me, but God won’t bless you when you operate in a fraudulent spirit.”
She continued, “This week, I was named in a lawsuit for one of my companies, Bar Vegan, alongside my partners, over alleged unpaid wages from one employee. Again, ALLEGED. Up until this point, I was not familiar with this ordeal or the employee, because I don’t run day to day operations at Bar Vegan…My lawyers have advised me not to comment on this, but now my reputation is being compromised and I’m being removed from an opportunity that I worked my entire life for.”