Current and former waiters, busboys, runners, bartenders, and barbacks of the famous Philippe Chow restaurants in Manhattan and Long Island, New York, have united as a class to sue the renowned chef and all of his restaurants for stiffing them on their pay and illegally retaining portions of their tips.
According to the Complaint, Philippe Chow is violated federal and state wage and hour laws even though he has been sued for wage and hour violations six times in the last ten years. The Complaint explains that almost every employee who previously sued Philippe Chow and his restaurants has been fired or harassed to the point of quitting. For example, a chef at one of the restaurants attempted to stab one of the plaintiffs with an oversized fork because of his involvement in a prior lawsuit against Chow. The same chef later tried to smash an oversized metal spoon on the plaintiff’s head. Management did nothing, and the plaintiff was eventually fired.
Attorneys for the workers allege that Chow’s restaurants paid its front of the house employees a reduced minimum wage rate, but required them to share their tips with managers and expediters. Moreover, in banquets and special events, the restaurants led customers to believe that mandatory “service charges” would be distributed to waitstaff as tips. In reality, however, the restaurants retained all or part of the service charges. The servers claim that as a result of these practices Chow and his restaurants should have paid them at the full minimum wage rate required under federal and New York State laws.
The Complaint also claims that waitstaff members were often required to perform “completely menial and humiliating tasks,” at times “off the clock” for no pay, “such as killing rodents and bugs infesting the restaurants, hanging out of windows to clean the panes, climbing onto the roof to clean skylights, cleaning ice buildup in walk-in freezers three times a day for two years because management refused to fix a leak, and cleaning walls sprayed with blood from butchering animal carcasses.” None of these tasks resulted in tips, yet the restaurants unlawfully paid the waitstaff at a reduced minimum wage rate, according to lawyers for the servers.
Brooklyn pizzeria, Grimaldi’s has been served with a wage theft lawsuit by one of the cooks who made its famous thin crust pies. The pizzeria, perennially named on lists having the best pizza in New York and the best pizza in America, has been accused of violating the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the New York Labor Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
According to the lawsuit, the Brooklyn pizzeria paid Nery Sosa, a kitchen worker, a weekly salary of $600 even though he worked as many as eighty-four hours per week. As Sosa was on a salary, Grimaldi’s failed to pay him overtime at one and a half times his regular rate of pay for hours he worked in excess of forty per work week. Grimaldi’s also did not pay Sosa spread of hours pay, when Sosa’s daily shift spanned for more than ten hours.
The lawsuit seeks to recover unpaid wages, overtime compensation, spread-of-hours pay, liquidated damagesand attorneys’ fees.
El Tequila restaurants in Oklahoma have been ordered to pay $2.1 million to its employees for willfully violating the minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. El Tequila is a popular Mexican restaurant, with four locations across Oklahoma.
The restaurants violated the FLSA by paying cooks and waitstaff a fixed salary without overtime compensation, paying less than federal minimum wage, misappropriate record-keeping, and misappropriation of tips. The restaurant owner admitted to keeping two sets of records, one that accounted for the actual hours and rates at which he compensated his employees, and another false set with appropriate compensation of minimum wage and overtime that was owed to the kitchen staff and servers. The owner instructed his restaurant managers to fabricate employee’ time records so that the records did not reflect all hours worked. Hours were adjusted or “shaved” to report fewer than had actually been worked. The lawsuit was filed by the United States Department of Labor after receiving several complaints regarding FLSA violations by El Tequila employees.
A Panera Bread restaurant in Macon, Georgia has been sued by a former baker for overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Georgia, alleges that the baker was regularly told to work off the clock between 2012 and September 2015. Attorneys for the worker claim that the baker was cheated out of approximately ten to fifteen hours of unpaid, off the clock, overtime hours worked per week. Under the FLSA, workers must be paid overtime at the rate of one and one-half times their regular hourly rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of forty hours per week.
The lawsuit seeks back wages, liquidated damages, damages arising from the breach of the baker’s employment contract, and attorneys’ fees.
Effective December 31, 2015, the minimum wage in New York increases to $9 per hour. The tipped minimum wage increases to $7.50 per hour for front of the house restaurant workers, including waiters, waitresses, bussers, runners, valets, and coat checkers. The overtime rate for front of the house restaurant workers increases to $12 per hour. The rate for spread of hours pay increases to $9.00.
Uniform maintenance pay increases to $11.20 per week for work weeks of more than 30 hours; $8.85 for work weeks of more that 20 hours, but less than 30 hours; and $5.35 per week for work weeks of 20 hours or less.
If a restaurant qualifies as a fast food establishment under the New York Fast Food Wage Order, the minimum wage increases to $10.50 per hour in NYC and to $9.75 per hour in the rest of New York State. For more information on these minimum increases please click here.
The cover story for this week’s Village Voice addresses Danny Meyer’s no tipping policy and the advent of EMV technology. Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com, is quoted in the article.
The Yonkers and Manhattan locations of Texas de Brazil have been sued by its waiters for including non-service employees in the tip pool at the restaurants.
The class action lawsuit filed in New York federal court by attorneys for the workers, alleges that the Brazilian Steakhouse should not be entitled to take a tip credit because it permitted non-tipped, ineligible employees to share in the tip-pool. According to the waiters’ lawsuit, front of the house employees were required to share their tips with polishers, who polished dishes and did not serve, and were not visible to the patrons of the restaurant.
Lawyers for the restaurant workers seek backpay, return of tips, attorneys’ fees, and other damages on account of Texas de Brazil’s violations of the restaurant workers’ rights.
Two former busboys have sued Gramercy Tavern in a class action lawsuit alleging tip theft and tip credit violations. The case was filed in Manhattan federal court alleging New York Labor Law (NYLL) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations. Gramercy Tavern is owned by Danny Meyer, the restaurateur who recently announced that he plans to do away with customer gratuities at all his restaurants.
The employees claim that the restaurant unlawfully required the waitstaff to share tips with non-tipped employees, including expeditors, polishers, and wine managers. According to the Complaint neither expeditors nor polishers performed any direct customer service. Wine managers interacted with customers but also had managerial duties, making them ineligible for the tip pool. The lawsuit states that due to these alleged violations, the restaurant was ineligible to claim a tip credit and was lawfully required to pay its waitstaff the statutory minimum wage ($8.75 in New York), rather than the tipped minimum wage of $5.00 per hour. According to the lawsuit, Gramercy Tavern also made customers who booked private events pay a service charge of 20%. The service charge was allegedly retained by the restaurant, which is illegal because the customers thought the money was a gratuity for the employees.
Attorneys for the workers are seeking unpaid wages, compensation for unlawful deductions, tip disgorgement, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees.
Servers at Pennsylvania locations of Red Robin restaurants have settled their tip theft lawsuit for $1,300,000, according to a settlement agreement filed in Pennsylvania federal court.
The employees alleged that the restaurant chain, known for its hamburgers, violated the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act by requiring waiters and waitresses to share their tips with expediters, who they allege are non-tipped employees. Employers are legally permitted to create a tip-pooling or tip sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, but a valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips.
The $1.3 Million settlement fund will be distributed among Red Robin restaurant workers based on the number of hours they worked between February 10, 2011 and January 30, 2013. The settlement agreement between Red Robin and the restaurant workers was preliminarily approved by Judge James M. Munley of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Workers at Sushi Samba restaurant locations in New York, Florida, Las Vegas and Illinois will receive $2.37 million as a result of a lawsuit, filed by former servers, bussers, runners, and bartenders, alleging improper application of the tip credit, failure to pay minimum wages, overtime pay and other federal and state wage violations.
Sushi Samba, a popular chain of sushi restaurants blending Brazilian, Japanese, Peruvian influences, with nationwide and international locations is alleged to have paid its waitstaff the tipped minimum wage without providing adequate notice as well as improperly allocating 5% of the waitstaff’s tips to sushi chefs. Attorney’s for the waitstaff alleged that the sushi chefs had no interaction with customers and therefore should not have received tips. Employees at certain locations also reported that they were required to work off the clock and that Sushi Samba hosted private parties whereby a 20% service charge was added to the total price paid by customers, but not distributed to the waitstaff in its entirety.
The proposed settlement, which covers over 500 workers, was submitted for preliminary approval to Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on November 30, 2015.