A little over one year after filing a wage and hour lawsuit against La Piccola Fontana, workers now sue the restaurant for retaliation. Located in Hilton’s San Juan Hotel and Casino in Carolina, Puerto Rico, La Piccola has a sister restaurant in the island’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, El Conquistador. In 2015, several waiters and bartenders brought suit on their behalf and other workers’ behalf in the federal court of Puerto Rico, alleging violations of federal and Puerto Rican minimum and overtime wage laws.
That complaint asserts that La Piccola improperly applied a tip credit against the waitstaff’s wages because it failed to notify waitstaff of the laws establishing the tip credit and imposed an invalid tip pool in which managers were incorrectly included. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) currently sets the minimum wage at $7.25, except for workers under 25 years of age who, for their first ninety days of work, can be paid as little as $4.25 under the new law called PROMESA (the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act). If properly claiming the tip credit, an employer must pay tipped workers at least $2.13 an hour.
According to the most recent complaint, La Piccola later closed for renovations in late 2016, promising the waitstaff suing the restaurant that they would be able to continue their jobs once renovations completed. Those workers say that they were not called back to work when La Piccola reopened in 2017. They claim that the restaurant refused to continue employing them in retaliation for complaining about their unpaid wages, in violation of the FLSA, the Puerto Rico Unjust Dismissal Act, and Puerto Rico Retaliation Act. The suit seeks over $1 million in damages for economic and mental suffering alone. The workers’ original claims could not be resolved at mediation and are now proceeding to trial.