HOMETOWN BUFFET CLOSURES PROMPT STATE INVESTIGATION

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East County News Service

February 9, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – California’s Labor Commissioner is investigating the abrupt closure of Hometown Buffet’s closure of restaurants statewide without any notice to its employees.  State law requires that employers with over 75 workers give at least 60 days notice before mass layoffs.

But workers at the six Hometown Buffets that closed in San Diego County, including the Santee and El Cajon locations here in East County, arrived at work to find the stores shut down.

The company could face a civil penalty of $500 a day and be forced to pay workers 60 days of back pay, as well as covering medical expenses, if the state determines that it violated state law by failing to provide a layoff notice.

The state launched its investigation in response to a 10 News investigation of the sudden closures.  An attorney for Hometown Buffet told 10 News that the company contends it acted legally, since no single restaurant had 75 employees and some workers were independent contractors. But a spokesperson for the Labor Commissioner said that’s the wrong interpretation of the law, which includes independent contractors as well as employees.

Hometown Buffet is owned by Ovation Brands, which was acquired by Food Management Partners last August.  The company shut down 74 stores, including Old Country Buffet, Ryan’s, Fire Mountain, and Country Buffet as well as Hometown Buffet.