New York Law

World-renowned Chef and Restauranteur David Bouley Sued for Tip Credit Wage Violations

Bouley front of restaurant minimum wage

A former restaurant worker at three of David Bouley’s New York City restaurants and event spaces claims the world-famous Bouley institutions failed to pay tipped restaurant employees minimum wage and overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law.

The worker, who was employed as a runner at Bouley Restaurant, Bouley Test Kitchen, and Bouley Botanical from June 2010 to September 2016, also alleges that the restaurants required workers to pay to clean and maintain their uniforms out of their own pockets, and failed to provide workers with a pay notice or accurate wage statements, in violation of the New York Labor Law.

In the collective and class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, the runner asserts that the Bouley restaurants paid tipped employees, including captains, servers, front waiters, assistants, bussers, runners, and baristas at the tipped minimum wage, currently $7.50 in per hour in New York, while requiring them to share their tips with non-service employees.  Specifically, the runner claims the Bouley restaurants permitted expediters, who are back of house employees with little to no direct customer interaction, to participate in the tip pool.  He also says the restaurant never gave the tipped workers notice of its intent to use the tip credit provision.

According to the FLSA, employers can take a “tip credit” and pay tipped employees below the federal minimum wage.  The United States Department of Labor regulations provide, however, that a restaurant will not qualify for the “tip credit” when tipped employees share tips with non-tipped workers who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, or when tipped workers do not receive notice of an employer’s intent to claim the tip credit.

 

 

Tip Sharing and 80/20 Violations Will Cost Red Robin Restaurants in New York $900,000

red robin store front

New York State Red Robin Restaurants have agreed to pay $900,000 to current and former servers to settle claims for tip splitting violations and violating the 80/20 rule.

The Red Robin Restaurants required their servers to share tips with expediters, even though expediters had little to no direct interaction with customers. Expediters do not customarily and regularly receive tips.  The restaurants took a tip credit to pay the waitresses, waiters, and bussers a tipped minimum wage.  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and New York Labor Law (“NYLL”), however, employers lose the privilege of paying workers a tipped minimum wage when they require tip sharing with workers who are not entitled to tips, such as expediters or other back of house workers.

The servers also allege they spent more than twenty percent of their shifts performing side work, including cleaning, preparing food, refilling condiments, and stocking and replenishing the bar and food stations.  Under the FLSA and NYLL, employers are allowed to take a “tip credit” and pay waiters, bussers, and bartenders below the federal minimum wage.  The United States Department of Labor regulations provide, however, that a restaurant will not qualify for the “tip credit” for employees that spend more than 20% of their time performing non-tipped work.

The $900,000 settlement was preliminarily approved by Gary R. Brown, a federal magistrate judge in New York.  The settlement includes all 16 Red Robin Restaurants located throughout New York State and covers 2,153 servers who worked at any New York Red Robin from January 20, 2010 to December 31, 2016.  A fairness hearing in the case is scheduled for June 2017.

The settlement fund will be distributed among current and former New York State Red Robin servers based on the number of tipped hours they worked during the period January 20, 2010 to December 31, 2016.  Red Robin settled a similar wage theft lawsuit with Pennsylvania restaurant workers in 2016 for $1.3 Million.

Jue Lan Club, Hamptons Hot Spot, Sued for Wage Theft

Jue Lan Restaurant Front

The Jue Lan Club, the trendy Hamptons restaurant, nightclub and art gallery that made headlines for offering a $27,000 bottle of Dom Perignon Rose*, cheated workers out of the minimum wage, overtime pay and tips according to a class action lawsuit filed in New York federal court.

Attorneys for the workers claim that the Jue Lan Club and Stratis Morfogen, its principal owner, failed to pay its servers overtime pay of one-and-one-half times their hourly rate for all weekly hours worked over forty, even though waiters worked 60+ hours a week.  The lawsuit further alleges that Jue Lan unlawfully required its waiters, bussers, and bartenders to give a portion of their tips to managers and back of the house staff, including dishwashers.

Restaurant workers in Long Island are reminded that beginning in 2017, their employers must pay them at least $10.00 per hour worked.  An exception to this rule exists for tipped food service employees in restaurants, such as bartenders, servers, and bussers, who can be paid $7.50 per hour as long as the restaurant gives them proper notice of the “tip credit” laws.  To do so, the restaurant must provide them with a written notice explaining, among other things, that tipped employees make at least $2.50 per hour in tips.  The notice must also state that if the tipped employees failed to make at least $2.50 in tips per hour worked in a workweek, the restaurant will pay them the difference between the amounts that they actually made in tips per hour and the required minimum of $2.50.  Moreover, all restaurant employees who work over forty hours per workweek must be paid one and one-half times their regularly hourly wage rates per hour worked over forty.  The minimum overtime wage rate in Long Island is $15.00.  Once again, tipped employees’ rates can be lower as long as the restaurant complied with the notice requirements explained above.  Tipped employees who work more than forty hours per workweek must be paid at least $12.50 per hour worked over forty.

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.

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