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.