RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) announced the completion of a 10-month undercover investigation after receiving an anonymous tip that the baker in the famous C.F. Sauer Company sign was not being paid a living wage.
The baker, a fixture at Broad Street and Hermitage Road for nearly 100 years, is widely known for his jolly nature and constant stirring of spices.
“This was an incredibly difficult investigation to complete,” Kevin Serlin, the lead investigator on the case, announced at a recent press conference. “We needed to interview the baker privately. However, this proved difficult given his constant presence on Broad Street. We eventually sent in an agent posing as a technician changing light bulbs.”
Investigators were shocked by what they uncovered.
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The baker, an immigrant from Sweden, started working at Sauer’s in 1918 at the age of nine as a factory sweeper for $3 per day. He was promoted to spice stirrer in 1931, which included a raise that brought his weekly pay to $75 per week.
It was the last time the baker received a pay increase. Investigators calculated that the baker is owed approximately $1.2 million in lost wages from the previous 70 years.
When questioned by investigators, the baker stated that he never brought up how little he was making because he was afraid of losing his job. “I just kept smiling, spicing, and stirring,” he explained. “I figured they would remember one day.”
DOLI notified the human resources department at Sauer of the violation. In a written statement, the company claimed that it forgot the baker was still a paid employee. “It’s kind of a funny story, really,” Marjorie Sauer, a great-great-granddaughter of the company’s founder, said. “Have you ever seen ‘Office Space’? Remember Milton? It’s kind of like that.”
Sauer agreed to immediately raise the baker’s salary to a level comparable to its other employees and reimburse him for the 70-year deficit. As a bonus, the company also gave the baker an all-expense-paid trip back to Sweden to visit his younger brother, who is also a chef.