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Pret A Manger Restaurant To Pay $910,000 To Settle Wage Claims

Pret A Manger restaurants will pay a total of $910,000 to settle a class action wage lawsuit filed in New York federal court for unpaid wages and tips.

Pret workers sued Pret in August 2012, alleging that Pret failed to pay them overtime pay for hours worked over forty hours per week and for so-called “gap time,” time spent working or preparing for work just before or after the scheduled start of their work day, including times when Pret workers were changing into their uniforms. The lawsuit also included claims for illegal tip-pooling and failure to provide adequate wage statements.

The settlement will be distributed to over four thousand employees who worked at 35 Pret stores in New York City at any time between August 9, 2006 and March 28, 2014. The settlement agreement in the case was approved by Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, a New York federal judge, on September 19.

Hakkasan New York Accused of Wage Theft in Lawsuit

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Hakkasan New York illegally retained tips and failed to pay any wages to the waitstaff that were sent home after reporting to work, according to a federal court lawsuit filed in New York. The lawsuit charged the restaurant with violations of the minimum wage requirements under the Fair Labor Standard Act and New York Labor Law. Furthermore, the lawsuit charged the restaurant with failure to pay the waitstaff according to the “Call-In Pay” and Service Charge requirements under the New York Labor Law.

Attorneys for Hakkasan waiters, waitresses, bussers, and bartenders claim that Hakkasan engaged in unlawful pay practices that violated the FLSA and New York Labor Law. The wage theft lawsuit claims that Hakkasan required customarily tipped employees to pool their tips with non-tipped employees such as expeditors. Unlike tipped employees, expeditors do not perform any direct customer service, were not engaged in customarily tipped work, and did not have any meaningful interaction with customers. Specifically, an expeditor’s job duties were performed exclusively in the kitchen, completely out of the customers’ view. Expeditors worked as liaisons between the kitchen staff and front of house staff, and would ensure that food orders were organized and at the right temperatures.

The complaint alleges that Hakkasan employees would regularly report to work but be told to return home, and would not be paid their “call-in pay” as required by New York State Hospitality Wage Order § 146-1.5. The Wage Order provides that an employer must pay an employee who “reports for duty on any day, whether or not assigned to actual work, at the applicable wage rate for: (1) at least three hours for one shift, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less; (2) at least six hours for two shifts totaling six hours or less, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less; and (3) at least eight hours for three shifts totaling eight hours or less, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less.”

The complaint also alleges that Hakkasan charged and collected “service charges,” from private events, and did not remit the gratuities to the waitstaff. The wage theft lawsuit claims that Hakkasan led or knowingly allowed its customers to believe that the Service Charge was a gratuity for the waitstaff by requiring a mandatory “service charge,” “administrative charge,” or a charge with a similar name compromising a percentage of the total bill. New York Labor Law § 196-d prohibits an employer from retaining “any part of a gratuity or of any charge purported to be gratuity.”

EEOC Sues Pennsylvania Popeye’s for Age Discrimination

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A Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchisee violated the age discrimination law when it refused to hire veteran applicants at its Coatesville, Pennsylvania restaurant because of their ages, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Attorneys for the EEOC allege that during an interview for a cashier/cook position, the general manager asked Lula Wright-Hill, then age 54, her age and said the she was “too old” to work at the restaurant. The general manager allegedly made a similar age inquiry when Kevin Bryant, then age 58, applied for a vacant cook position and told Bryant the restaurant was not hiring. A Department of Veterans Affairs vocational counselor referred these two prospective employees and other veterans to the Popeye’s position. The EEOC said that the general manager told a vocational counselor not to bring him older applicants because “They don’t work hard for me. They get tired easily.”

The EEOC’s age discrimination lawsuit also alleged that when Leroy Keasley, then age 40, applied for a shift manager position, the general manager also asked Keasley his age and told him that he was “too old” to work for the restaurant. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals 40 or older on the basis of age. The EEOC filed the age discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“It’s absurd that [the applicants] were well able to serve our country in the military, but then when they sought to return to the civilian workforce, were wrongfully deemed too old to cook or serve chicken by Popeyes general manager,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “The age discrimination laws ensure that older workers are not deprived of the right to earn a living due to out­dated prejudices and biases.”

Inclusion of Coffee Person in Tip Pool May Invalidate Tip Credit

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A tip out to a coffeeman who does not interact with customers may invalidate a restaurant tip pool according to a Decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a case against Tony’s Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant in Houston, a coffeeman received a fixed ten dollars from each station each shift. The servers at the restaurant sued, claiming that by requiring them to share tips with the coffeeman, who worked in the kitchen and did not serve customers, the restaurant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, and was not entitled to take a tip credit.

The Court of Appeals explained the tip credit rule as follows: “A restaurant may not claim a tip credit unless all tips received by a tipped employee have been retained by the employee, except that this subsection should not be construed to prohibit the pooling of tips among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips. 29 U.S.C. § 203(m). Thus, the general rule is that an employer may not claim a tip credit unless a tipped employee is permitted to retain all of his tips. The statute provides a limited exception to this rule by permitting the pooling of tips among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips. If an employee is required to share tips with an employee who does not customarily and regularly receive tips, the employer may not legally take a tip credit.”

In this case, the Court held that a jury could find that the coffeeman did not customarily and regularly receive tips, and may therefore be ineligible to participate in the restaurant’s tip pool.

Famous New York Deli Sued for Time Shaving and Overtime Violations

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A former cook at Ben’s Kosher Deli, has sued the restaurant chain for wage theft in New York federal court.

The lawsuit was filed by Michael Palermo, who worked at the Greenvale, Long Island location of the restaurant. Palermo claims that he worked between 72-96 hours each week, 12-16 hours per day, six days per week. According to lawyers for Palermo, the deli only paid him forty hours per week, not paying the cook any wages, including his over time wages of time and one-half, for hours that he worked in excess of forty per week. Palermo claims that Thanksgiving week in 2012, he worked approximately 100 hours and was only paid for forty of those at his regular hourly rate of $26.44.

The lawsuit seeks to recover unpaid wages, overtime compensation, and compensation for not receiving wage notices and statements as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.