New York Law

Kitchen Workers Accuse Serafina Restaurant of Wage Theft

serafina round logo

Serafina, an Italian restaurant chain operating eleven restaurants in New York State, allegedly failed to pay kitchen workers overtime pay for all weekly hours worked over forty, spread-of-hours pay, and other wages.  The kitchen workers, including cooks, non-executive chefs, sous-chefs, porters, and dishwashers, claim that Serafina required them to regularly work more than forty hours each week but did not pay them time-and-a-half for all of their hours over forty.  The kitchen workers say that the restaurant paid some workers a fixed salary regardless of the number of hours they actually worked.  For example, one sous-chef was paid $1,100 per week for working up to eighty-four hours a week.

The lawsuit claims that while Serafina did pay some kitchen workers hourly wages, the restaurant shaved their overtime hours.  For example, a cook alleges that Serafina only paid him for forty-eight hours of work each week, despite actually working sixty hours a week.  The workers claim that Serafina paid all kitchen workers for fewer overtime hours than they actually worked each week due to time shaving.  The workers further allege they were never given wage notices required under the New York Labor Law and that their paystubs contained inaccurate information concerning their hours worked.

Serafina previously agreed to settle another wage theft lawsuit with former servers, runners, bartenders, bussers, and baristas for $1.275 million.

Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp

New York City Bar Association Logo

The New York City Bar Association will hold the CLE program “Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp” on March 24. The program will focus on the corporate, real estate, liquor license, and labor/employment issues involved in opening a restaurant in New York City. Speakers on the panel include Jack Gordon, partner at Kent, Beatty & Gordon LLP; Carolyn Richmond, partner at Fox Rothschild LLP; Sonal Shah, General Counsel of Ark Restaurant Group; Alex Victor, partner at Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron LLP; and Larry A. Welch, Associate at Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP.  Lou Pechman will be chairing the event. For more information on the program please visit the event page.

Matteo’s Restaurant in Bellmore, New York Sued for Wage Theft

Matteo's Bellmore Logo

Matteo’s Restaurant in Long Island cheated workers out of the minimum wage, overtime pay, and spread-of-hours pay, according to a class action lawsuit filed in New York federal court. The lawsuit, filed by two former dishwashers, claims that Matteo’s failed to pay non-exempt restaurant workers overtime pay of one-and-one-half times their hourly rate for all weekly hours worked over forty, despite the fact that they regularly worked over 60 hours per week. Instead, they say the restaurant paid them a set salary each week regardless of the number of hours they actually worked and also shaved some of their hours.

One restaurant worker alleges he was paid $420 per week, partially in cash, which resulted in an hourly rate below the minimum wage. Another worker says the restaurant only paid him for 42.5 to 48.5 hours of work per week, despite working as many as 69 hours per week. The workers further claim Matteo’s violated their rights by not paying them a spread-of-hours premium of an additional hour’s pay whenever their workday exceeded 10 hours.

The lawsuit alleges that back of the house workers typically worked more than 10 hours a day without any breaks or meal periods. For example, one dishwasher alleges working a regular schedule from 12:00 pm to around 11:30 pm, six days a week (69 hours) straight through without any rest. The dishwashers also claim that Matteo’s failed to provide them with proper notice of their wages at their time of hiring and accurate pay statements with each payment.

 

Montauk, Long Island 7-Eleven Settles Wage Theft Lawsuit for $199,500

7 eleven logo

A manager at the highest grossing 7-Eleven store in the United States won $199,500 in a wage theft lawsuit against 7-Eleven. Muhammad Anwar, the manager at the 7-Eleven in Montauk, New York, alleged 7-Eleven cheated him out of minimum wages, overtime pay, and spread-of-hours pay.

 

Anwar alleged that 7-Eleven steadily increased his hours and required him to work seven days a week for 18 months straight. Although the start and end time for Anwar’s shifts varied on a week-by-week basis, he claimed that throughout those 18 months, he always worked at least 80 hours per week without an uninterrupted break each day. 7-Eleven adjusted Anwar’s hours worked at the end of each week, paying him for far fewer hours than he actually worked. In one example of time shaving, Anwar claimed that 7-Eleven paid him for six hours’ worth of work, despite working 80 hours during that week.

 

In late June of 2013, the  FBI raided fourteen 7-Elevens across Long Island and Virginia for requiring their employees to work more than 100 hours per week and only paying them for a fraction of that time.  Anwar claims that after these raids, the Montauk 7-Eleven reduced his hourly wages from $25.00 to $16.00, started paying him overtime, and substantially reduced his weekly hours.

 

7-Eleven has been hit with several wage theft lawsuits recently, alleging that their stores fail to pay workers overtime pay.

‘Essen Sued for Wage Violations

Essen NY Logo

‘Essen, a to-go café with locations in Midtown East, Hell’s Kitchen, and Financial District in New York City, has been hit with a wage violation lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that the cafe failed to pay several cooks, food preparers and salad preparers minimum wage, overtime pay, and spread-of-hours pay. The lawsuit claims that these cooks, food preparers, and salad preparers would work between 48 to 78 hours a week, and would be paid fixed weakly salaries regardless of how many hours they worked. The employees also claim that they were forced to buy “tools of the trade” such as work uniforms out of their own pockets. Lastly, the lawsuit asserts that ‘Essen required employees to sign documents claiming they were paid properly in order to disguise the actual number of hours worked by employees.

For example, one employee claims worked approximately 78 hours a week and was paid a fixed weekly salary of $550.00. His hourly wage rate for those weeks was approximately $7.00, below the minimum wage. This employee also claims was asked to sign a document which he didn’t understand in order to receive his pay, and did not receive his pay when he failed to do so.

Reichenbach Hall Sued for Wage Violations

Reichenbach Hall Logo

A wage theft lawsuit has been filed against Reichenbach Hall, a German beer hall located in midtown Manhattan. The lawsuit charges that the restaurant cheated its waiters and waitresses out of minimum wage and overtime pay. The servers claim that Reichenbach Hall charged them for customer walkouts and for uniforms. The waitstaff also allege that Reichenbach Hall paid them the “tipped minimum wage” without giving prior notice and forced them to share their tips with managers and back of house employees as part of an unlawful tip pool.

 

 

Restaurant Workers Get 2017 Pay Hike

back of house cooks

On December 31, 2016, restaurant workers throughout New York State will begin to see changes in the payment structure of their wages.
Back of the House Workers

 

Back of the house workers (cooks, dishwashers, stockers, and others without direct customer contact) will receive an increase from the current minimum wage rate of $9.00/hour beginning December 31, 2016, according to the following specifications:

New York City – Large Employers (with 11 or more employees): $11.00
New York City – Small Employers (with 10 or fewer employees): $10.50
Long Island & Westchester: $10.00
Remainder of New York State: $9.70

 

Front of the House Workers

 

New York State law allows employers in all industries, except building service and fast food, to satisfy payment of the minimum wage by combining a “cash wage” paid by the employer with a credit or allowance for tips that the employee receives from customers. For example, employers in the Hospitality Industry could satisfy the 2016 minimum wage of $9.00 by combining a cash wage of at least $7.50 with a tip allowance of no less than $1.50 per hour. Employers need only pay a cash wage of $7.50/hour to workers, so long as the employees receive at least $1.50/hour from customers in tips.

 

Beginning on December 31, 2016, tipped front of the house restaurant workers (servers, bussers, bartenders, hosts, hostesses, and others with direct customer contact) will still be required to receive the same 2016 minimum hourly wage rate of $7.50/hour from their employers. However, as of December 31, 2016, tipped restaurant workers must receive at least the following amount in tips per hour in order for employers to use the tip credit:

 

New York City – Large Employers (with 11 or more employees): $3.50
New York City – Small Employers (with 10 or fewer employees): $3.00
Long Island & Westchester: $2.50
Remainder of New York State: $2.20

 


Fast Food Workers

 

Additionally, restaurant workers in the fast food industry will see an increase in hourly wage rates. Employees who qualify for this increase include any person working at a fast food establishment whose job duties include at least one of the following: customer service, cooking, food or drink preparation, delivery, security, stocking supplies or equipment, cleaning, or routine maintenance.

 

On December 31, 2016, the minimum hourly wage rates for all fast food workers will increase according to the following specifications:

 

New York City: $12.00
Rest of the State: $10.75

 

For more information about your rights as a restaurant worker, take a look at our Top 10 Restaurant Pay Violations.

Upscale Long Island Restaurant Charged with Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Jewel Restaurant Logo

Tom Schaudel, “Long Island’s homegrown restaurant king,” and his Jewel Restaurant have been hit with a complaint alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law, as well as minimum wage and overtime violations, tip theft, spread of hours violations, and uniform purchase and maintenance violations of the New York Labor Law and Fair Labor Standards Act.

A former server at the Melville, New York restaurant alleges that the Executive Chef sexually harassed her throughout her employment at Jewel, calling her inappropriate names, commenting on her body and appearance, and going out of his way to initiate unwanted physical contact. According to the lawsuit, the harassment reached the point of sexual assault in December 2015 when the chef “forcefully grabbed her by her hips, and aggressively thrusted his crotch against her backside.” The lawsuit contends that not only did management ignore the waitress’ complaints, but retaliated against and punished her for speaking out by taking her off the schedule for several weeks and instructing other employees not to ask her to cover their shifts. In February 2016, less than 2 months after the alleged assault, the server’s employment was terminated.

The lawsuit also claims that the waitress did not receive the minimum wage, overtime pay, spread of hours pay, and reimbursement for the purchase and cleaning/maintenance of her uniform. The server also contends that tip-ineligible employees, including managers, were in the tip pool in violation of the FLSA and New York Labor Law.

Attorneys for the waitress are seeking to recover compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

NY Diner Found Guilty of Retaliation Against Workers

Waverly Diner Restaurant front

Waverly Restaurant, a diner in New York City’s West Village, was found guilty of retaliation against former workers in a decision by Judge Steven Davis of the National Labor Relations Board. After a three-day trial, Judge Davis found that the restaurant reduced worker hours because they had filed a federal court wage theft lawsuit against the restaurant for overtime, minimum wage, and other violations. The Judge also found that management had pressured waiters, delivery workers and bussers involved in the FLSA lawsuit to drop the suit. The restaurant workers were represented at the trial by Vivianna Morales and Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com.

Johnny Rockets Ordered to Pay Servers Over $570K in Tip Theft Case

Johnny Rockets logo

Two Johnny Rockets restaurants in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area will pay 55 servers $571,460 for unpaid minimum wages, overtime and other damages. The judgment follows a Department of Labor investigation, which revealed that the restaurants required its servers to contribute a portion of their total tips back to the restaurant. Johnny Rockets then unlawfully distributed the servers’ tips to cooks and dishwashers. In addition, Johnny Rockets failed to pay the servers required overtime wages when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, and did not keep accurate records of all hours worked by employees.

Many restaurants require servers to pool their tips for workers to share equally. A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not receive tips customarily and regularly, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs and janitors. When an employer utilizes employees’ tips for any purpose other than a valid tip pool, as was the case at Johnny Rockets, it is a violation of the tip credit provision of the FLSA. As a result, no tip credit may be claimed, and the employees are entitled to receive the full cash minimum wage on a retroactive basis, as well as a return of the tips that were misappropriated.

 

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