PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The Newberg Frack Burger closed early this month, one of five in the region that have closed for good.
The restaurant opened in Newberg last October, but in recent months that location and others in the chain have experienced a number of difficulties.
“Basically, where we’re at is we’ve had some operational and some management failures,” owner James Frackowiak said Tuesday morning. “We’ve made a decision to close some locations that weren’t performing well.”
The Frack Burger restaurants in Boring, Longview, Vancouver, West Linn as well as Newberg have closed, leaving only the Canby and Portland locations still in operation.
Frackowiak added that the series of failures included personnel problems, a management team making decisions independently without consulting superiors, as well as issues with bookkeeping and accounting.
Some former employees in Newberg, including Jason Sullivan, say they haven’t been paid for hours they worked. Sullivan began working at the restaurant March 6 and worked until mid-April, although he never officially quit.
But he was never paid for those hours, except for one $50 cash payment under the table at the end of April, said Becky Hitt, a friend of Sullivan’s who has been advocating on his behalf. She has communicated with a number of Frack Burger managers as well as Frackowiak himself, but has not settled the outstanding paycheck balance. She said a manager at the restaurant confirmed Sullivan had worked 106 hours.
Hitt, Sullivan and a Frack Burger manager came to an agreement to settle up the stated $800 that Sullivan was owed. The agreement noted Sullivan would be “paid weekly in cash, until the balance has been paid in full.” It was signed June 28 with the first payment scheduled the following Friday.
“That was on Tuesday, and come Friday they were closed down with a repair sign,” Hitt said.
Hitt said she is still working to get Sullivan’s paycheck and that if discussions with Frackowiak are unsuccessful their next move is to contact the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), which has several open wage claims related to Frack Burger.
“We have conducted previous investigations that have recovered some money on behalf of workers,” BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr said of the fast food chain.
A wage claim filed with BOLI on July 1 seeks to recoup nearly $2,800 in unpaid wages, and while the claim is technically against a separate company registered to Frackowiak called Plan-It Financial, the claimant is a former manager of the Newberg location.
Plan-It Financial has two other open wage complaints, as well as more than a dozen that have been closed in the past few years, some with BOLI ordering money to be paid, some settled privately and some closed for other reasons.
A lawsuit filed last summer by a former employee of the Canby and Barbur Boulevard Frack Burger locations alleges the worker was not paid for some 121 regular hours and 209 overtime hours worked. The suit against Frackowiak and Plan-It Financial sought more than $43,000 in economic damages and some $120,000 in non-economic damages for alleged stress and humiliation resulting from alleged sexual harassment the worker was subject to in the workplace.
That suit was settled for about $48,000 in early 2016, but has since been in a collections process.
Burr said if current or former employees believe they are not being paid for hours worked, they should contact the BOLI wage and hour division at 971-673-0844. That applies whether the business is still operating or not, since when a business closes down and workers haven’t been paid, they are eligible to apply for the state “wage security fund.”
Workers may qualify for payments through the program for hours they worked for 60 days prior to the business closure date. A maximum of $4,000 for unpaid wages can be paid to an individual worker.
Frackowiak said he’s talked to most of the folks who claim not to have been paid, and that part of the issue was with poor communication between managers of the individual locations and corporate.
“At the end of it all, I want to figure things out so everyone’s taken care of,” he said.
Meanwhile, while former employees claim they haven’t received paychecks, Frack Burger is also facing a small claims suit from Newberg Ace Hardware.
The suit, filed by Mark Vergets, indicates Frackowiak opened a charge account at the hardware store in April 2015, “since he was going to be spending ‘so much time & money’ in our store” to get the Frack Burger location opened up across the street, Vergets said. He added in the language of the lawsuit that Frackowiak also stated “that Newberg should be ‘thankful to have a business like his here.’”
Payments for the charge account were due each month but after two months the payments ceased, the suit says, until October, when Frackowiak paid $500 toward the bill.
Further attempts to settle the full bill have been unsuccessful and the suit seeks to recoup more than $1,315.
Even though the chain has had recent and continuing troubles, Frackowiak is still working on his business: he is one of the early tenants to sign a lease at the remodeled Lloyd Center in Portland and plans to open another Frack Burger there, he said.
“My hope is we shrink and we rebuild,” Frackowiak said.
The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.