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Upper Crust staffers land at new shop

The lawyer who represents more than 100 immigrant workers in a class-action lawsuit against the bankrupt Upper­ Crust pizzeria chain is opening a new Harvard Square pizza shop at a former location of the business she accused of exploiting employees.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing workers who say Upper Crust’s owners overworked and underpaid them, named her restaurant The Just Crust. It was expected to open Thursday.

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The Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy protection in October. It closed most of its shops the following month.

Liss-Riordan purchased the lease of the Brattle Street pizza shop at auction in December with the aim of hiring back immigrant workers who were allegedly exploited by the chain. She said more than half of her employees are former Upper Crust workers, led by whistleblower and now operations manager Patrick Joyce.

The US Department of Labor investigated Upper Crust in 2009 and ordered the owners to pay overtime wages workers were owed.

Liss-Riordan’s clients allege the owners later recouped that money by deducting it from their paychecks.

But the attorney’s plan has not quite come full circle yet because many of the immigrants are undocumented. Immigration issues have barred her from hiring back any of the five plaintiffs in the class action, which is scheduled to go to trial in August.

‘I’m extremely excited that most of our staff are [former] Upper Crust workers’

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“The spirit of it is there, and I’m extremely excited that most of our staff are [former ] Upper Crust workers,” Liss-Riordan said. “I’m hoping when and if immigration reform goes through we can hire back the immigrant employees involved in the case.”

She also intends to share a portion of the pizza shop’s profits with employees.

After the first six months of operation, The Just Crust will allot 25 percent of profits to full-time, part-time, and management employees on a monthly or quarterly basis, she said.

Liss-Riordan said she will share the remaining 75 percent of the profits with her husband, Kevin Riordan, and Joyce.

A Just Crust grand opening celebration will take place in June.

Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com
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