YUKON, Okla. (KFOR) – Former Graze Craze, Inc. employees say they haven’t been paid in months, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of unpaid wages.
Caitlin Pittman worked at the Graze Craze, Inc. in Yukon for five months before she quit in March.
“I left Graze Craze because my boss did not pay me for almost 3 to 4 pay periods, which there are two week pay periods,” said Pittman.
She claims she is owed just over $1,200 from Graze Craze.
Pittman provided text messages between her and Graze Craze Yukon’s Interim Manager, James Adam Jenkins. She asked Jenkins several times when she would be fully paid in which he replied by saying the following day or within the week.
Jenkins also stated in those texts that another employee would not come to work because she hadn’t been fully paid either.
“I’ve had to ask help for my electricity bill, asked to get food, asked to get food from my mom, which thankfully she did. I was on verge of tears because I have two little ones and I cannot like, I can probably go without eating, but I can’t let them go without eating,” said Pittman.
Pittman told KFOR Jenkins has since “ghosted” her and she hasn’t spoken with him in over a month.
“Stress, mostly stress. That’s the only word I can use,” explained Pittman.
News 4 spoke with that another former Graze Craze Yukon employee, Addison Breanne off camera.
She alleges there are at least 12 other employees who are in the same boat of going unpaid for several months.
“I quit working after several months of constantly late paychecks ultimately resulting in unpaid wages upwards of two months,” stated Breanne.
Breanne said she is owed $1,000.
Despite Breanne claiming Jenkins has threatened her not to share her story of misfortune with others, she said it’s a story that needs to be told.
“[Jenkins] also manipulates his employees to stick around by promising bonuses and paying our late fees and forcing us to sign non-disclosure agreements just to be paid our unpaid wages and threatening us with legal action against us if we tell anyone our story. He constantly threatened us that other people have already been sued and are in lots of trouble financially and legally and criminally,” stated Breanne. “Personally he threatened me and told me if I spoke out about my situation that he would go to the police department with a case he already has completely set up against me.”
The last time she spoke with Jenkins was on Saturday about a social media post she had created regarding her situation with Graze Craze.
“Hey Addison. Lots of people watching your comments. Broke my phone yesterday, got an email today about your words. I will get with you Monday to resolve your problem! In all respects. My phone’s fixed now. Sorry we couldn’t connect on Friday. I believe we’ve covered the expectation here. See you Monday,” said Jenkins in a text message.
Breanne said the whole situation has sent her into a downward spiral.
“My bank account has been closed due to his checks bouncing three times resulting in over drafting my account $400 and I haven’t had the money to pay it back so they closed my bank account. I haven’t been to the doctors in a year because every time I asked him about healthcare coverage he would say he would email me them and never ever send them no matter how many times I asked,” explained Breanne.
Both Breanne and Pittman have both filed a wage claim with the Oklahoma Department of Labor (ODOL).
An ODOL representative told KFOR only two people have filed a wage claim with them as of Tuesday afternoon.
The ODOL is currently investigating.
Oklahoma City employment attorney, Mark Hammons said by these employees not receiving paychecks, the business is in violation of the Payday Prevention Act.
“There’s a statute that specifically requires private employers to pay twice a month, and if you do not pay, there are liquidated damages, penalties, attorney’s fees that can be assessed against them,” stated Hammons. “There is a good set of statutory protection. But again, it doesn’t answer the question of someone who is essentially bankrupt, who doesn’t have any resources.”
Hammons said there is also a provision for criminal penalties in the Paycheck Protection Act.
“There could be a crime charged and prosecuted. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen that crime prosecuted. So it’s almost always a civil remedy that you’re looking at,” added Hammons.
Hammons said issues like Breanne and Pittman’s aren’t terribly common, but he does get 20 to 30 calls a year about an employer not paying up.
“What we do see frequently, however, is that they’re not contributing the money to benefit plans. So you get health insurance through the company there that takes money from your paycheck to help pay for the health insurance or maybe completely pay for the health insurance and then you go to the doctor and you don’t have health insurance. That’s a pretty serious problem,” Hammons told KFOR.
News 4 tried calling and texting Jenkins on Tuesday, but he didn’t respond.
While searching through the Oklahoma State Court Networks website, News 4 found Jenkins has plead guilty to at least four criminal felonies.
Jenkins has been in and out of court for bogus checks, foreclosure, indebtedness, and unfair and deceptive trade practice.
According to a Tulsa David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center representative, Jenkins has been booked into their detention center nine times between 2004 and 2014.
News 4 has requested all nine mugshots, but have not received them yet.
We also stopped by the Graze Craze location in Yukon, but the door was locked and an eviction notice was posted.
According to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s website, Graze Craze, Inc.’s entity license has been suspended for not complying with tax requirements.
News 4 also reached out to the Owner and Co-Founder of Graze Craze, Inc. for comment.
“James Jenkins was forced to take the role as the interim manager of the local stores due to my diagnosis of stage 4 terminal cancer, early last year. Currently, I am in the process of appointing a new general manager as I am unable to fulfill my original role as owner/operator. My sudden illness has affected the day-to-day operations and unfortunately has spilled over into payroll and accounts payable. I acknowledge that Graze Craze owes arrearage pay to four employees and there are balances owed to some local vendors, which will be satisfied within a short time frame. As Graze Craze is in the process of restructuring, the patience of past and present employees and customers is much appreciated,” said Kerry Sylvester in a social media to KFOR.
Included in the local vendors who have not been paid is a plumbing company that wishes to not be named.
A representative with that plumbing business told News 4 they completed work for Graze Craze in March, but never got paid.
They estimate they’re owed $4,200.
They don’t plan to put a lien on Graze Craze though as the building is owned by a separate party.
The representative also said they likely won’t take legal action because it would cost more to do so than just getting the money they’re owed.
Sylvester said because of the eviction notice, she’s moving the Yukon location as “a measure to provide more efficient food output and deliveries.”
She also claims the suspension on her business license will soon be removed.
“Graze Craze has recently completed current sales and franchise tax reports which will remove the suspension,” added Sylvester.
Hammons suggests anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation file a wage claim with the Oklahoma Department of Labor immediately.
“Depending on their staffing and their ability to manage the complaints that are coming in, has been pretty good in dealing with those issues. But there are times when they just don’t have the resources to deal with all of them,” stated Hammons.
If you’re having trouble with collecting wages from an employer, you can file a complaint with the ODOL.