Owners Of Iron Horse Venues Hit With Fines, Penalties Over Workers' Rights Violations
Updated 3:46 p.m.
The owner of several entertainment venues in Northampton and Holyoke, Massachusetts, has been hit with $100,000 in fines and restitution after the Massachusetts Attorney General's office found the rights of about 30 workers were violated.
According to a release from Attorney General Maura Healey's office, Iron Horse Ventures and its president and manager, Eric Suher, were cited for failing to pay wages in a timely manner, not having a sick leave policy, denying the use of paid sick time to certain employees and "failure to furnish true and accurate records."
A second Suher-owned company, 26-28 Center St. LLC, was also cited for failing to furnish records.
“These companies have repeatedly refused to turn over records or otherwise cooperate with our office’s investigation into wage theft,” Healey said in a statement. “We’ve issued these citations to these companies for taking advantage of people trying to make a living and will fight to get these exploited workers the wages they earned.”
Reached Monday morning, Suher pointed to a statement given to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which said he plans to appeal the decision from the attorney general.
Roman Behrens, who used to work for Iron Horse, said the ruling brings a sense of excitement and relief "that after all of our hard work, and being minimum wage workers standing up to a giant property and business owner, that we actually have had success and can win."
Some of the impacted employees enlisted the help of the Pioneer Valley Workers' Center, which assisted with their case.
Its co-director and organizer Andrea Schmid said it's been a long fight for the former Iron Horse workers, dating back about two years. She said one of the most rewarding parts of the attorney general's action is "to actually be able to hold him [Suher] accountable, and give the workers who have been affected and have lost money — and been exploited, essentially, by all of this — the back wages and the acknowledgement of wrongdoing they deserve."
A 2019 New England Public Radio report quoted several former IHEG employees who accused the company of several violations of labor laws.
Some said they had hours deducted from their paychecks for breaks during their shifts they never took. Others said paychecks were often several weeks late. Many were unaware they were entitled to paid sick leave, or had to fight to get the benefit.
The attorney general's office said neither company has come into compliance with the state labor law since the citations were issued. In 2020, the AG said both of Suher's companies were fined $7,500 for failing to provide investigators with complete payroll records — and that those fines remain unpaid.
Suher's venues include the Iron Horse Music Hall, Calvin Theater and the Basement in Northampton, as well as Mountain Park in Holyoke.