San Francisco bakery under fire for failing to pay workers 

click to enlarge John Campbell’s Irish Bakery, which downsized from three locations to one, was the target of complaints by 12 ex-workers. - JOSEPH SCHELL/SPECIAL TO THE SF EXAMINER
  • Joseph Schell/Special to The SF Examiner
  • John Campbell’s Irish Bakery, which downsized from three locations to one, was the target of complaints by 12 ex-workers.

The working relationship between a small Irish bakery chain in The City and a dozen employees went stale when the owner failed to pay wages, according to the former workers.

The San Francisco Labor Commission has ordered the owner to pay nearly $57,000 for the lost-compensation claims.

Former employees say the conflict started in 2010, when John Campbell’s Irish Bakery had locations on Geary Boulevard, Fillmore Street and De Haro Street. The Geary shop is the only one that remains today. The workers said they believe the small business was spread too thin then, because the owner stopped paying wages.

The lack of payments prompted 12 former employees from all three locations to file complaints with The City’s Labor Commission in spring 2011. Many discovered they were without jobs when the bakery did not reopen as expected after Memorial Day.

Former manager Sara Johnson told The San Francisco Examiner she and other employees were informed that the bakery would close for the holiday, but it was still shuttered two weeks later. At that time, the workers learned that Campbell, who owns the bakery, was filing for bankruptcy.

But Johnson said the problems started much earlier.

“He stopped paying us in January,” she said. “For months and months, he told us we would get paid.”

Johnson is owed $11,219 for 324 hours of unpaid work, interest and penalties. As manager, she kept records and schedules of employees’ hourly work.

Another ex-employee who worked for the bakery for four months in 2011, 32-year-old Patrick Ahern, is owed $1,500 in back pay. He said he was told to take money from the tills until paychecks could be issued.

“If we didn’t, we’d get absolutely nothing,” Ahern said. “Numerous times we tried to contact John, but he was never willing to speak to any employees.”

The June complaints are not the only problems on record. In 2009, Campbell was cited for not having enough workers’ compensation, according to records from the California Department of Industrial Relations. And another complaint, in 2008, found the bakery owed one employee $42,500 for back wages, overtime and mealtime. That claim was settled in 2009 for an undisclosed amount.

This time around, however, the former employees doubt they will be paid.

“He hasn’t paid me what is owed from a year ago,” said Kelsey Heckenkamp, 25. “I would be surprised if I get all the money that’s owed to me.”

Heckenkamp, who is owed $10,210, said working without pay for months at a time became very stressful.

A total of $30,324 in back pay was claimed by the 12 former employees last spring. This month, Campbell’s bakery was ordered to pay $56,777 in wages, penalties and interest. Four claims were dismissed, for failure to sign paperwork or when the plaintiffs declined to proceed.

Campbell did not respond to requests for comment.

All former employees said they enjoyed the work and the product — the business specializes in Irish baked goods such as scones and soda and crusty breads — but found the lack of pay unacceptable.

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