State Sen. Harris ordered to pay $23k in underpaid worker wages

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nearly four months after the I-Team exposed a well-known Illinois politician at odds with former employees of his pizza business, the ex-workers are getting their due wages. The case involves State Senator Napoleon Harris who is now also running for the United States Senate.

The I-Team has learned that Illinois Labor Department officials have sacked Harris for underpaying dozens of employees of his pizza restaurants. Harris and the state have now reached an agreement in court and he will be repaying back wages to 38 jilted employees.

The case may be especially sensitive for Harris because he is running for the U.S. Senate on his prowess as a business leader.

Harris is in a three way race in the March Democratic primary.

The labor issue is now off his back. According to court records obtained by the I-Team, Beggars Pizza in Harvey, owned by Harris and his brother, reached a deal with state regulators and the case was dismissed by agreement.

According to the state attorney general, that settlement agreement requires Harris to repay 39 past employees of his pizza parlors a total of $23,032.09, money they were underpaid.

"It was $5 an hour and then you know whatever tips you would get throughout the day," said Ryan Animashaun, one of the underpaid employees.

Ex-pizza employees interviewed by the I-Team described their below-minimum wage pay and their efforts to get Harris to pay them legal wages.

"$3,691 is what he owed me, underpaid me for two years while I worked there," said Reignald Parha. "I was just fed up with him trying to get one over on me so I did some research and I found the State of Illinois Department of Labor and I wrote them a letter."

Harris is a one-time NFL star with the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl 37, and with the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

He played college football at Northwestern posed for a picture with Governor Rauner at a wildcat game in Evanston this fall. It is against the sports celebrity background and his pizza business success that the 36-year-old Harris ran for state senate 15th district seat and won in 2012 on an economic growth platform, a similar focus of his campaigning now.

Senator Harris' attorney didn't respond to our messages late today. However, in response to our original report Harris said that he "would never knowingly deny anyone his or her right to fair compensation." He promised in august that if his business was found to be in the wrong the issues would be addressed and resolved. Four months later-it appears they have been.
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